Trump’s Calculated Pak-Afghan Policy

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Ayaz Ahmed
Under its recently-announced Afghan policy, the Trump administration has decided to deploy some 4,000 additional troops in Afghanistan to assist the ineffective Afghan security forces against the rising ascendancy of the Taliban. Even though Pakistan has incurred losses worth $123 billion and sacrificed over 60,000 lives in the protracted war on terror, the US has continued to deliberately blame it for sheltering the infamous Haqqani Network in North Waziristan. As a result, the Trump administration has made American financial and military assistance to Pakistan contingent on Islamabad’s stringent and indiscriminate military operations against the alleged sanctuaries of the Haqqani Network.
Despite the Indian sponsorship of Pakistani-based terrorist attacks on Afghan soil, Washington has decided to increase New Delhi’s role in enhancing Afghanistan’s security and fostering its economy. Presumably, the Afghan policy of US President Trump is calculated to systematically string the American presence in war-torn Afghanistan out so as to maximise Washington’s underhand geo-economic and geo-strategic interests in the region.
The US decision to send additional forces to Afghanistan has come on the heels of the Taliban’s open letter to the Trump administration about the complete withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan. The Taliban’s offer of a complete drawdown has bitterly angered the US as it directly challenges Washington’s declining prestige as the invincible global hegemon. What regional powers should not forget is that the US will not leave resource-rich and strategically-important Afghanistan until it fully achieves its commercial and security objectives in the region.
Both the Pentagon and Capitol Hill are fully acquainted with this widely accepted fact that the US will not able to successfully carry the day against the regionally-funded Taliban in Afghanistan anytime in the future. So, Washington is just predisposed to station an adequate number of its troops in the terror-stricken country in order to prevent the resurgent Afghan Taliban from completely taking over Kabul. Realistically, the lingering insurgency in Afghanistan seems to be in the greater geo-economic interests of the US as it immensely helps Washington create obstructive security and economic hindrances to Chinese grand connectivity projects in Asia. More importantly, the Afghan political instability has provided a spacious theatre to Pakistan and India to sponsor proxies against each other. Such Indo-Pak belligerent policies have created domestic adversities for both countries and impeded meaningful bilateral cooperation between them. This has prevented Pakistan and India from dominating South Asian politics.
What should not be forgotten is that both President Trump and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson successfully managed multinational companies before assigning the current political positions. Since January this year, they have remained watchful of Afghanistan’s vast mineral resources and China’s growing proclivity to exploit those resources. Now, it is axiomatic that these additional troops will be employed to wrest back some mineral-rich districts of Afghanistan from the control of the Taliban and provide security to American engineers and companies in these areas.
The Trump presidency is inclined to extract Afghanistan’s over $1 trillion worth of natural resources so as to increase its revenues and create more jobs for Americans. The US is aware that if it further delays exploiting these potential Afghan resources, China will grab the opportunity to bank on Afghan resources to expedite its economic growth and military rise in the region. How is it possible that the US allows China – its economic and military rival – to count on Afghan resources and challenge Washington’s diminishing economic and military power in Asia?
As the US has already lost some 2,300 troops in Afghanistan, it is highly likely that it will now restrict its forces to only train the underperforming Afghan forces and provide them necessary air power against the Taliban. It is probable that the Afghan Army will operate under the thumb of the notorious Blackwater to safeguard American engineers and companies against the string of Taliban attacks in Afghanistan. Given the increasing interest of Russia and China with regard to enormous Afghan resources, they will not let the US peacefully and easily extract these resources of terror-torn Afghanistan. Moscow will, therefore, increase its military assistance to the Taliban, with an eye to scuttle Washington’s bid towards exploiting Afghan resources.
In his recent article published in The Wall Street Journal, Eric Prince, the founder of Blackwater, termed the war in Afghanistan as an expensive disaster and suggested that the Trump administration should employ private military units to operate with local partners against the Taliban. The deployment of Blackwater mercenaries in Afghanistan will result in gross human rights violations, as seen in Iraq. This will goad the Taliban into speeding up their drive to recruit and train fresh fighters who will be used against the Afghan government and foreign forces. Despite knowing Pakistan’s stringent and indiscriminate military actions against terrorists and militants of all shades and hues, the US is still bent upon piling mounting pressure on Pakistan to flush out the alleged sanctuaries of the Haqqani Network. In fact, Washington is perturbed over Islamabad’s all-out help to Beijing to complete the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative.
Under the influence of some Afghan advisers and the active Indian lobby, the Trump administration will continue to turn a blind eye to the countless sacrifices rendered by Pakistan in the war on terror while applying more economic and military pressure on Islamabad. To the US, Pakistan’s major sin is its regional alignment with China. To impede China’s peaceful economic rise in the region, the US could resort to even imposing economic and military sanctions on Pakistan on the pretext of Islamabad’s alleged backing to regional terrorists and militants.
While the US may succeed in delaying the Chinese economic boom and military rise in Asia for some years in the foreseeable future, this will not hinder Beijing from becoming another superpower owing to its sagacious and cautious policies.
However, America’s hostile attitude towards Pakistan will compel Islamabad to part ways with Washington and further tilt towards Beijing and Moscow in the region. In such a case, the US will find it rather costly to maintain its military presence in Afghanistan because of expensive and inhospitable supply line via some Central Asian countries. As a nuclear power with a growing economy, Pakistan should resolve its perpetual governance issues and decrease its economic dependence on the US. Ostensibly, Washington will not be able to dictate terms to an economically and militarily powerful Pakistan. This will tremendously help us adopt an independent foreign policy in the region.
DisclaimerViews expressed in this article are those of the author and Balochistan Voices not necessarily agrees with them.
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