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January 7, 2018

Toxic marriage

Opinion

January 7, 2018


Pakistan and the US have been in a 70-year relationship. It has been a toxic marriage, and toxic love; but also a mutually dependent relationship. The US has been dependent on Pakistan for its own strategic objectives while Pakistan’s dependence on the US has been more economic in nature. It has surely been an extremely troublesome marriage – but without a divorce.

As of November 28, 2017, direct overt US appropriations for and military reimbursements to Pakistan have amounted to $33.927 billion (FY 2002-2018). Of this, the security-related amount is $8.259 billion, economic related $11.095 billion and Coalition Support Fund (CSF) reimbursements are $14.573 billion. For the record, CSF payments are, “reimbursements to Pakistan for expenses already incurred and compensation for facilities made available to the coalition forces….” In effect, 75 percent of all direct overt US appropriations have gone towards the CSF and security related reimbursements (the remaining 25 percent being economic related).

The US has so far spent $714 billion in Afghanistan, according to the special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction, making this war the “longest and one of the costliest military operations in United States’ history.” The most recent estimate from the Long War Journal (LWJ) is that the, “Taliban currently control 41 districts and contest an additional 118.” The LWJ has, “determined that 45 percent of Afghanistan’s districts are controlled or contested by the Taliban.”

In Pakistan, Operation Rah-e-Nijat established the government’s writ over 6,619 square kms of South Waziristan. Operation Zarb-e-Azb established the government’s writ over 4,707 square kms of North Waziristan. Operation Black Thunderstorm established the government’s writ over Buner, Lower Dir, Swat and Shangla.

Our narrative is that there isn’t an inch of Pakistani territory that is not within the government’s writ. Our narrative is that there is no organised militant infrastructure on Pakistani territory. But we, as a country, have miserably failed to sell our narrative.

Red alert: There’s an international conspiracy to create chaos, instability and mayhem in Pakistan. I am convinced that we are militarily quite secure. Our vulnerability really lies in the economic domain. In the next 12 months, Pakistan has to pay back at least $6 billion to foreign creditors. Between January and June, Pakistan’s current account deficit is expected to be around $8 billion. As of December 22, 2017, net dollar reserves with the SBP were $14.1 billion. Please do the simple math and in about six months the SBP will be left with very little. That’s scary to say the least.

Imagine, our trade deficit is going to be $35 billion. Imagine, our budget deficit is going to be Rs2.2 trillion. Yes, Trump knows that. I hear analysts talk about an Islamabad-Beijing-Moscow nexus. Will the nexus fill our trade deficit? Have they ever done it in the past? What will they ask for in return?

Imagine, the US has 831,407 votes at the IMF. Yes, Trump knows that. The US has 385,197 votes at the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Yes, Trump knows that. I hear that the SBP has made arrangements for using the yuan for bilateral trade. Will the issuers of the yuan fill our budget deficit? Have they ever done it in the past? What will they ask for in return?

On December 18, 2017, Trump presented his first National Security Strategy (NSS). The NSS is China-centric and considers China a ‘revisionist’ power. I think that Trump’s latest Twitter outburst is more about Pakistan-China than about Pakistan-Afghanistan. Our 70-year old addiction to toxic love will die hard. Pakistan must, therefore, tread carefully because ‘when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers’.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: [email protected]

 Twitter: @saleemfarrukh