Trump’s New Strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia

Can Pakistan survive without American aid?

Donald Trump’s intriguing address to the American nation last Monday has raised many questions all around the world. Trump’s speech had a paucity of detail regarding the new policy on South Asia and Afghanistan with much reliance on “military response” and a little consideration on “diplomatic repercussions”. Trump in his speech had not only accused Pakistan of harboring terrorists but has also given India the opportunity to Increase its sphere of influence in the region. Following Trump’s critical speech, Pakistan has responded to the US accusations of providing safe havens to the Afghan Taliban. Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, during his meeting with David Hale US ambassador to Pakistan said that “we are not looking for any material or financial assistance …. But trust understanding and acknowledgement of our contributions”. On Thursday, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi during a meeting with national security committee not only rejected Trump’s accusations but deemed the new American “policy an attempt to scapegoat Pakistan.”  The Committee nevertheless reassured Islamabad’s determination to work with Washington and called on the US military forces to hit the Pakistani Taliban sections reportedly positioned in Afghan regions.  Following Trump’s speech, international observers and analysts have been trying to detect the clear aim of the new US policy in Afghanistan and South Asia.

New US Policy in Afghanistan

Trump’s speech has not only been subject to criticism but has also been deemed as an extension of Barak Obama’s policy on South Asia and Afghanistan. Trump during his Presidential campaign promised to pull out the US troops from Afghanistan but now has plans of sending more troops to Afghanistan. Trump in his speech asserted that military power alone is not sufficient therefore a political process is required “to achieve a lasting peace.”  Trump’s intention of preventing Afghanistan from becoming another Iraq is similar to what his predecessors Bush and Obama have been trying to do all these years.  The new US policy also involves the role of the Afghan people to take up the responsibility of nation building as US will restrict its role to wiping out terrorists. What is new and unique about Trump’s policy on Afghanistan is asking India to do more in the troubled country. The US desire of forging a strategic partnership with India is not a new development and could be traced back to Bush administration later carried forward by Obama. Indian journalists like Taludkar, have criticized Trump for his “barter approach” by reminding India that it makes “billions of dollars in trade with the US.” Trump has urged India to play a greater role in Afghanistan by participating “in the area of economic assistance and development.”  President Trump has been criticized by International observers for warning Pakistan and for involving India in the already troubled situation. According to analysts, Trump’s apparent shift in alliances does not clearly indicate if he has asked India to get involved in Afghanistan militarily. India is already busy in Afghanistan in development and reconstruction and its greater role in the regional would naturally drive Islamabad close to Beijing. China has already indicated that incase it loses USA’s military and economic support, it would draw closer to Pakistan. According to Al Jazera, Pakistan’s national security committee has rejected the idea that India’s role in Afghanistan could be constructive. Zahid Hussian has stated that no other US president has ever asked India to play a greater role in Afghanistan considering the regional dynamics.   The First Post states the new US policy on Afghanistan has nothing new and the US decision of keeping its forces in Afghanistan reflect America’s intellectual Bankruptcy and is destined to fail. Trump in his speech stressed that by “working alongside our allies will break their will and dry up their recruitment and keep them from crossing our borders.” What seems astounding to most of the international observers is that why the US has not been able to break the will of the terrorists for the past 16 years? However Trump’s speech clearly did not acknowledge the failure of the US military adventure in Afghanistan.

An American flag is placed in a dirt-filled barrier outside the headquarters of 3rd Platoon, 1-320 Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Divivion, at Combat Outpost Nolen in the Arghandab Valley north of Kandahar July 22, 2010. REUTERS/Bob Strong (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: CONFLICT MILITARY) - RTR2GMGQ

US Pak relations – is US being unfair?

 The US Pak relations has been at low ebb for quite some time, despite the fact Pakistan has been a US ally in the war on terror. According to Al Jazera, Pakistan has been the fifth largest recipient of US aid however the amount had substantially decreased in recent years.  In July, US withheld $ 50 million in reimbursements to Pakistan in addition to the already withheld $ 300 million over accusations of Pakistan not fully targeting the Haqqani network. The history of US economic and military assistance to Pakistan can be traced back to 1940’s. According to The Guardian, US economic aid to Pakistan peaked during the 60’s however US military assistance was raised to $ 17 billion during the Soviet Afghan war.  Pakistan after experiencing a slowdown in economic and military assistance from 1992 to 2001 again witnessed an overall substantial rise in US aid after 9/11. According to the government of Pakistan, economic loses endured by Pakistan during the Afghanistan war is much higher than the US economic and military aid given to Pakistan. However there is a school of thought in the west which asserts that it is difficult for Pakistan to manage without the US governments handouts. Some scholars believe that “refusing US aid is a prerequisite” for Pakistan’s economic improvement. While others suggest that with the emergence of China as a regional player Islamabad certainly has a better financial status with less dependency on US economic assistanceThe level of influence and power that China has acquired in Pakistan is far greater than that of the United States. However, Pakistan does not want a rift in the US Pak relations as Pakistan’s FO spokesman said that “difference of opinion and misperceptions could be addressed and resolved by means of a dialogue. According to the News International, following Trumps speech, diplomats in Islamabad and Washington are struggling to resolve rift through back channels. Islamabad is doing its best to clear America’s misunderstanding regarding the hideouts of terrorists in Pakistan to avoid more drone strikes in its territory.

Trumps new policy has angered the Pakistani’s, with people protesting trumps threat at border crossings and calling it “unfair”. Pakistani’s are accusing the US president of “bullying” Pakistan. this new strategy could destabilize Pakistan. Pakistan has not only been a US partner in its global war on terror but has also carried out military operations such as Rah-e- Nijat and Zarab –e- Azb against the Taliban. Therefore, the sacrifices made by Pakistan in all these years must be acknowledged for better US- Pak relations.



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