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Trump’s love-hate relationship with Pakistan


Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal |

President Donald Trump’s tirade of accusation that Pakistan did nothing for the United States in the war on terror agitated not only the Pakistanis but also puzzled many Americans. The Pakistani ruling elite immediately overruled his judgment and Pentagon reiterated that Pakistan remains a critical partner to America’s South Asia strategy.

The latter’s deviation from Trump’s perception underscores that he was not taken seriously even in Washington. Nevertheless, Trump’s recent salvo further derails bilateral ties between Pakistan and the United States.

Pakistan has done much more for peace in Afghanistan than any other country and paid the highest military, economic, political and social cost and the world should acknowledge that.

The disturbing charge is that the government of Pakistan had harboured Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda. On Sunday, President Trump said during an interview with Fox News that Bin Laden’s had been “living in Pakistan right next to the Military Academy, everybody in Pakistan knew he was there.”

He forgets that his predecessor president Barack Obama after the investigation concluded: “We had no evidence that Pakistan was aware of his presence — that is something that we looked at.” Even his Administration members concur former President Obama’s judgment and acknowledge Pakistan’s decisive role in destroying Al-Qaeda infrastructure in the region.

Since the beginning, the Trump Administration has not been comfortable with Pakistan. It has been scapegoating Pakistan for its failure in Afghanistan. President Trump’s new plan for South Asia and Afghanistan announced on August 21, 2017, miserably failed in Afghanistan.

Read more: America’s War on Terror & Pakistan’s sacrifices – Need for…

Despite an upsurge in American troops and air strikes, Afghan Taliban-controlled areas have been increasing. President Trump was undiplomatic and very harsh in his New Year tweet in which he accused Pakistan of lying and being deceitful. Trump Administration was forced to change its Afghan policy.

On August 21, 2017, President Trump while speaking at the Fort Myer military base in Arlington stated that the Americans must seek an honourable and enduring victory. Instead of struggling to secure a military victory, now the Americans have been engaging the Taliban in a dialogue process to restore the peace in the war-torn country. Notwithstanding, the three round of direct talks between American delegates and Afghan representatives in Doha, Qatar since July, the former failed to achieve its objectives.

With the suspension of coalition support fund and ending of the US International Military Education and Training Program (IMET) grant, Washington lost leverage to influence Islamabad.

Trump Administration is frustrated due to the failure of their policies in Afghanistan. It is struggling to make Pakistan a scapegoat for US military debacle in the 17-year asymmetrical war. However, the Pakistani political and military leadership is vigilant and determined not to accept any nonsense. It responded very strongly on the recent President Trump ‘unwarranted and unsubstantiated allegations made against Pakistan’.

Prime Minister Imran tweeted that the record needs to be put straight. He asserted, “No Pakistani was involved in 9/11, but Pak decided to participate in the US War on Terror. 2. Pakistan suffered 75,000 casualties in this war and over $123 bn was lost to the economy. US aid was a minuscule $20 bn.” He added: “Our tribal areas were devastated and millions of people were uprooted from their homes.

The war drastically impacted the lives of ordinary Pakistanis.” Former Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif while responding to Trump accusation said: “We continue to pay in blood for what we did for the USA from Beda Ber to fighting wars which weren’t ours. Reinvented our religion to suit US interests, destroyed our tolerant ethos, replaced it with bigotry and intolerance.

Read more: Pentagon acknowledges Pakistan’s sacrifices during war on terror

A relationship of betrayals & sanctions.” On November 20, Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa while emphasizing on Pakistan’s efforts in the war against terrorism said: “Pakistan has done much more for peace in Afghanistan than any other country and paid the highest military, economic, political and social cost and the world should acknowledge that.”

Since May 2, 2011, Islamabad has been clarifying that it was not providing sanctuary to Osama bin Laden. Instead, they were assisting Americans in arresting and eliminating Al-Qaeda members, who were hiding in Pakistan. Ironically, rather than appreciating Pakistan’s support, President Trump has been making humiliating remarks about it.

It seems appropriate that his Administration should examine the causes of the Americans failed in Afghanistan instead of blaming Pakistan. Premier Khan rightly recommended: “Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failure, the US should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140,000 NATO troops, plus 250,000 Afghan troops and reportedly $1 trillion spent on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before.”

Prime Minister Imran tweeted that the record needs to be put straight. He asserted, “No Pakistani was involved in 9/11, but Pak decided to participate in the US War on Terror.

On November 20, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua summoned the United States Chargé d’Affaires Paul Jones and reminded him that it was Pakistan’s intelligence cooperation that provided the “initial evidence to trace the whereabouts of Usama Bin Laden.”

With the suspension of coalition support fund and ending of the US International Military Education and Training Program (IMET) grant, Washington lost leverage to influence Islamabad. Pakistan is no more dependent on the US military aid for its defence. Besides, the cementing strategic partnership between India and the United States necessitated Pakistan to revamp its foreign and strategic policy.

Read more: US further sidelines Pakistan in Afghanistan peace efforts

Consequently, it has been strengthening and broadening the scope of its bilateral relations with China and also been improving strategic understanding with Russia. To conclude President Trump’s unjustifiable and unsubstantiated allegations are not acceptable to the Pakistani leadership. They are determined to keep the record straight and unwilling to accept concocted fibs.

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He is also an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, London and a course coordinator at Foreign Services Academy for the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Email: jaspal_99@hotmail.com. This piece was first published in Pakistan Observer. It has been republished with permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.