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January 3, 2018

Trump’s threat


January 3, 2018

US President Donald Trump is making no friends in the international arena. America’s European allies were the first to have been alienated by a childishly-manned Twitter account. With the New Year, Trump seems to have resolved to alienate further allies. In his first tweet of 2018, Trump chose to launch an attack on Pakistan for offering ‘nothing but lies and deceit’ to the US after receiving $33 billion in aid. He promised that he would not allow Pakistan to harbour terrorists wanted by the US in Afghanistan. It must be repeated that Pakistan’s decision to join the US as an ally in the war against terror has come at a significant cost. Before 2001, Pakistan was not infested with the kind of terrorism that has left over 50,000 Pakistanis dead in the last fifteen years. The cost to the Pakistani economy and fiscal exchequer has run into hundreds of billions of dollars. Pakistan could have chosen to sit on the fence and keep domestic peace but it allied with the US in the war on terror. This decision can be questioned on a domestic front, but it is ridiculous for the US to criticise Pakistan for choosing to prioritise its relationship to the US over domestic peace once again.

Moreover, it seems the US president is embarrassing himself with numbers once again. Pakistan has not received $33 billion in aid from the US – unless there has been money handed over outside the declared circuits. This will be for Trump to prove, and in any case the money issue is irrelevant. Pakistan has issued a strong retort saying that it does not need US money – and let’s hope that remains the case. The National Security Meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, was brought forward from Wednesday to issue a response to Trump’s tweet while the corps commanders also held a meeting of their own. The trouble is that Trump’s statements continue to remain erratic. And the US policy in Afghanistan remains as muddled as Trump’s Twitter feed. Does the US want peace with the Taliban? Does it want to exterminate them? The answer is always somewhere it between. There are some Taliban it wants dead; there are others it wants alive. There are certainly questions about Pakistan’s failure to exterminate domestic terrorism after a decade and a half of fighting terrorism – but these questions are more intelligently asked from within the country. The tendency to blame the US failure in Afghanistan on Pakistan does no one any good. Yes, former Pakistani officials have made rather embarrassing admissions about possible double games, but it should be clear no one simply takes orders. Especially when they are as confusing as the US policy for the region has been. Trump needs an excuse for why the American policy in Afghanistan is failing. Pakistan is an easy target, but with China backing its position, it will not be so easy to bully Pakistan this time.

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