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Editorial

February 8, 2018

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A bumpy road

One month after US President Donald Trump suddenly announced on Twitter that the US would be suspending security aid to Pakistan, his administration is sending signals that it could potentially reconsider its move. Speaking to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Deputy Security of State John Sullivan has said that Pakistan had played an important role in pushing Al-Qaeda into a position of defeat, taking on the Islamic State, giving the US a route for transporting equipment to its forces in Afghanistan and hosting the refugees caused by the US war. He has also stated that the US administration would be open to restoring the $900 million in aid if it believes that Pakistan is now taking action against the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network. While that may sound like an olive branch, it is unlikely to come to pass. As the TTP attack in Swat last Saturday showed, Pakistan still faces a significant militant threat. We will prioritise fighting that threat over the one identified by the US and Afghanistan, especially since the two countries are doing nothing about to disrupt the TTP bases in Afghanistan. Ideally, all three countries should be working together to take on all militant threats. Instead, they have chosen to blame and scapegoat each other.

It is worth noting that much of the security assistance the US is withholding from us is not aid in the traditional sense. Rather they are Coalition Support Fund repayments for money that Pakistan has already spent in fighting militancy. This is what makes it even more galling that two Republican congressmen have introduced a bill seeking to reallocate funds meant for Pakistan to infrastructure projects within the US. The bill has also been introduced for a vote in the House of Representatives. Although it is unlikely to go anywhere, it does show where the Republican Party is right now. The party has little interest in engaging with Pakistan. On his part, Trump has also not walked back any of his inflammatory comments. The best the two countries can hope for right now is a working relationship where there are occasional points of common interest. There are sure to be more bumps in the road ahead, especially once additional US troops arrive in Afghanistan. The likelihood of further US drone attacks and an attempt to blame Pakistan when the Americans once again fail to defeat the Taliban will lead to greater tensions and threats. The onus will be on us to react calmly since the Trump administration has shown that such maturity in foreign relations is beyond them.

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