Frosty Pak-US Ties

 The visit of United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicates Washington’s desire to work closely with Islamabad in combating the menace of terrorism on its own terms, and to explore other realistic avenues for bilateral cooperation. The latter also sincerely reciprocates the former, but with a caution and independent approach.

Despite having convergence of interest and identical objective to destroy the transnational terrorist syndicate sanctuaries located in the region; the trust deficit has been taxing Pakistan and United States bilateral relations. Though, neither side is interested in derailing the bilateral relationship completely, yet both Islamabad and Washington remains committed with their respective stances.

The primary objective of Secretary Tillerson’s visit on October 24, 2017, was to convince Pakistan to do more in clearing the hideouts of anti-Afghan government forces (Haqqani network) having sanctuaries inside of Pakistan. Islamabad denies the presence of safe heavens of the terrorists.

Tillerson expressed United States’ resolve to continue fighting against the Taliban to secure unconditional victory. Admittedly, the Afghan Taliban lacks capability to secure a military victory against American led North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s technologically advanced forces. However, they have proven to continue asymmetrical warfare against the United States and its allies and partners in the country since 2003.

The continuity of asymmetrical warfare in Afghanistan is casting frustrating impacts on the Americans. The American ruling elite is blaming others, especially Pakistan for their fiasco in Afghanistan. Trump Administration, without any tangible evidences, accuses Islamabad for supporting insurgents in Afghanistan. President Trump claimed that Pakistan was “providing safe havens to agents of chaos, violence, and terror.

” On October 23, 2017, Secretary Tillerson, after meeting the Afghan President and Chief Executive reiterated similar allegations that “Pakistan needs to, I think, take a clear-eyed view of the situation that they are confronted with in terms of the number of terrorist organizations that find safe haven inside of Pakistan.”

The United States officials’ denunciation annoyed Pakistanis. Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani pronounced the Pakistanis annoyance on October 24, 2017. He stated: “His tone and tenor are not acceptable. His statement came one day before his visit to Pakistan. It seems like a viceroy told Tillerson what to say.”

In reality, Pakistan armed forces have been successfully conducting military operations against terrorist and their facilitators. Pakistani law enforcement agencies had unearthed many terrorist networks and destroyed their hideouts.

Ironically, instead of appreciating Pakistan’s positive role in the war on terror, Trump Administration is repeating the same old mantra—‘do more’ and ‘safe-havens’. It seems Americans are either ignorant about the ground realities or they are deliberately making Pakistan a scapegoat.

Secretary Tillerson met with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who also chaired an interagency meeting attended by Foreign Minister; Interior Minister; Minister of Defense; Foreign Secretary; Chief of Army Staff; Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence, and other officials on October 24, 2017.

It was reported that they discussed bilateral cooperation and partnership, expanding economic ties between the United States and Pakistan, and Pakistan’s critical role in the region. The reports indicate that both sides were not comfortable during the meeting.

The Secretary pressurized about increasing Pakistan’s efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country. Conversely, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi categorically told Secretary Tillerson, “We are committed in the war against terror.” He also informed him that Pakistani law enforcement agencies have produced results.

Since the beginning of war on terrorism, Pakistan has been sharing intelligence information with the Americans. However, Islamabad maintains that it would neither allow foreign troops’ operations on its territory, nor it would send its troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s firmness on its Afghanistan policy and independence approach in conducting military operations against radicalized militant organizations seems unacceptable to the Trump Administration. Therefore, it has adopted a coercive diplomatic strategy against Pakistan.

Washington’s encouragement of India to play a greater role in Afghanistan undermines Pakistan’s national security. The US permanent representative to the United Nations, Nikki Haley calling India to “keep an eye” on Pakistan manifests Americans mistrust over Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan and cementing Indo-US strategic partnership.

Indeed, the deliberate overlooking of Indians using Afghanistan territory for engineering terrorist activities inside Pakistan only increases mistrust between Islamabad and Washington.  To conclude, Trump Administration lacks competence to restore peace and stability in Afghanistan. It has also failed to convince Pakistani government about the presence of terrorist safe havens on the Pakistani territory. Therefore, it is coercing and intimidating Pakistan.

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About Dr. Zafar N Jaspal 13 Articles
The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad & Member Advisory Board at ‘Mélange int’l Magazine’ and Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR).