American leaders facing doubts about their capabilities from their own country usually turn to war to quell the disapproval.
Luckily for the United States, an unwinnable war has been going on for 16 years with no signs of slowing down.
The U.S. should have pulled out of the war years ago as former President Richard Nixon and national security adviser Henry Kissinger made the decision to do in the Vietnam War.
Last week President Donald Trump had his back against the wall. He had outed himself as a racist, white nationalist sympathizer, the fallout of which saw him lose a top adviser in Steve Bannon and respect among the American people with 40 per cent approving of his impeachment.
So Trump did what any American president does in a time like that: talk about going to war.
Except the war America is mired in is the most chaotic, least clear-cut war ever fought by the country since American troops won freedom from England precisely by acting as ISIS militants do now.
Trump announced he would be sending more troops to Afghanistan to continue fighting the war instead of pulling out like he promised to do. In doing so, however, he made a key and crucial error in dismissing the country he might need the most help from – Pakistan.
In addressing the military offensive plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan, it was clear Trump views the two countries in completely different lights.
Trump called Afghanistan a “friend and partner” and spoke of the need to continue that partnership. He admitted that the Afghan military was fighting the Taliban in the field there and said America will continue to support that effort.
Of Pakistan, however, Trump struck a much different tone and alienated a key partner.
“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” Trump said. “Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbour criminals and terrorists.”
Trump said Pakistan had been a valued partner “in the past” and acknowledged that Pakistanis have also died in the incessant War on Terror, but continued that “Pakistan has also sheltered the same organisations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.”
To be fair, several radical, militant groups can be found in Pakistan, but that claim alone does not mean the country and its citizens are averse to peace in Afghanistan. It also discounts the fact that Pakistan has taken tremendous steps toward addressing local insurgents.
Pakistani military operations have targeted the Taliban, its leaders and splinter groups such as Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and the Shehryar Mehsud group. It has also wiped out leadership of another extremist group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi – all this despite counter attacks and suicide bombings that could have potentially intimidated Pakistani officials and put an end to the raids. The Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) estimates that the state has conducted 20 major search operations that have netted nearly 100 key leaders from the militant-linked Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, another group whose members have the potential to feed into larger groups such as the Taliban or
The country has also made an effort to enforce laws against hate speech and weapons sales taking steps to taking away two of the biggest extremist weapons: guns and the ability to recruit.
Besides these moves, Pakistan wears the same, if not more scars than America does in the conflict. Pakistan has lost 22,000 civilians since 2001, according to a study by Brown University, and 40,000 have been wounded. Meanwhile, more than a million have been displaced by offenses such as the one undertaken in 2014 against the Taliban. Trump says Pakistan is harbouring terrorists, but the other view is that terror exists in Pakistan and as America has found out, those groups are difficult to locate and snuff out.
Pakistan has received criticism for doing nothing against the Haqqani Network, an organisation it has denied offering safe havens to.
It has also received the fifth most financial aid from the U.S. and was scheduled to receive almost $750 million this year before some was withheld due to the Haqqani allegations.
America’s distrust of Pakistan goes back years to when the U.S. did not inform Pakistan it was invading a compound to kill Osama bin Laden, because Barack Obama didn’t trust Pakistani leaders to keep silent.
It’s not that Pakistan can’t and shouldn’t do more, but if the president of the United States is going to say the country has done nothing, he is flat wrong. Adding fuel to the fire, the U.S. has suggested engaging India in assistance despite Trump himself saying “Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict.”
So he acknowledges two people don’t like each other but threatens to put them in the same room anyway.
As far as what Pakistan can expect from Trump’s new offensive: more drone strikes.
Only four drone strikes have been reported this year, but that number could skyrocket. America launched 132 drone strikes in Pakistan in 2010.
Trump’s new offensive is not going to win the war, because he made the decision for the wrong reasons.
Besides hoping to obscure his falling numbers at home, Trump reneged on his promise to end the war because “our nation must seek an honourable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made.”
In other words, he’s doing it for pride.
A statement from the Pakistani Foreign Office said, “The military action during the last 17 years has not brought peace to Afghanistan, and it is not likely to do so in the future. Only an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned politically negotiated solution can lead to sustainable peace in Afghanistan.”
In November 2016, Trump called Pakistan’s former leader Nawaz Sharif after his election victory and called the country “fantastic.” Maybe Trump should
give the new prime ministe a call. •