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February 12, 2017

Top US think tanks ask Trump to go tough on Pakistan

Top Story

February 12, 2017

LAHORE: Two leading US think tanks have advised the Trump administration must review the policies toward Pakistan for, what it calls, more effectively containing and eventually eliminating the terrorist threats that continue to emanate from the country.

They have called for laying out “a sequence and timeline for specific actions Pakistan must take with regard to terrorists responsible for attacks outside Pakistan and link these steps to future US military assistance”.

The report ‘A New US Approach to Pakistan: Enforcing Aid Conditions without Cutting Ties’ claims that the activities and operations of diverse terror groups on and from Pakistani soil, and the government’s failure to rein them in, threaten vital US national security interests in the region.

It alleged that “Unfortunately, Pakistan never changed its policy of supporting certain militant groups that fight Afghan and coalition forces, thus making it impossible for the United States to achieve its objective of keeping Afghanistan from reverting to a safe haven for international terrorism”.

In its recommendations, the report says it must be acknowledged that Pakistan is unlikely to change its current policies through inducements alone.

The report issued by Hudson Institute and The Heritage Foundation asks the Trump administration must be ready to adopt tougher measures toward Islamabad that involve taking risks in an effort to evoke different Pakistani responses.

“Designating Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism, as some U.S. congressional members have advised, is unwise in the first year of a new administration, but should be kept as an option for the longer term. Indeed the administration should state up front that it intends to review the intelligence on Pakistani involvement in supporting terror much more critically than its predecessors”, it adds.

“Present to Pakistan a list of calibrated actions for ending its support to the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, and make clear that failure to make substantial progress on these steps could eventually result in Pakistan’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” the report says.

It says the new US administration should recognize that Pakistan is not an American ally. However, it adds, “At the same time, Pakistan is an important country that is willing to cooperate occasionally and partially with the United States. It cannot be treated, for example, in the same way the US deals with North Korea. As a first step, the US must warn Pakistan that its status as a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) is in serious jeopardy. Unless Pakistan takes immediate steps to demonstrate that it fully shares US counterterrorism objectives, the US will revoke its MNNA status within six months.”

The report calls for maintaining the option for Pakistan to be an ally in the future and suggests a package of trade and investment cooperation “that would be mutually win-win for the economies of the United States and Pakistan”.

“Prioritize engagement with Pakistan’s civilian leaders and continue humanitarian and social assistance programs that are administered by Pakistan’s civilian authorities. Rolling back the tide of extremism in Pakistan will be an enormous task and could take a generation, but once again there are some recent hopeful signs that the Pakistani civilian government under Prime Minister Sharif is trying to move the country in this direction,” the report says.

The report also suggests using diplomacy by working with other countries, especially China and Gulf Arab states “that share US concern about Pakistan’s tolerance of terrorist organizations and individuals”.

The report also talks about Pakistan-India relations. “The US should no longer sacrifice its anti-terrorism principles in the region for the sake of pursuing an “even-handed” South Asia policy, but rather should levy costs on Pakistan for policies that help perpetuate terrorism in the region. In particular, US officials must break the habit of trying to balance policies toward India and Pakistan and should instead pursue shared mutual interests with each. At the same time, the US should be modest about its ability to bridge what divides India and Pakistan.”

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