The United States, it seems, is keen on vexing Pakistan for its own failures in Afghanistan and Islamabad’s growing tilt towards regional powers like China and Russia for economic, infrastructural and security cooperation. After Michael Pompeo’s statement that the US will not approve of any IMF bailout package to Pakistan, the Congress has passed a defence bill that suggests further cuts to security aid to Pakistan. If Trump adopts the defence bill, Pakistan will receive as low as $150 million in security-related aid. The economic support, however, comes without any clause that forces Pakistan to initiate action against Haqqani Network or Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
What does this suggestion mean? Cutting security aid to Pakistan suggests that Washington is trying to not depend on Pakistan anymore. Furthermore, the cuts are likely to put a squeeze on the Pakistani military, at least in the short run. With a reduction of military aid coming to Islamabad means that military’s immediate plans for upgrading of material and manpower resources will be stalled. However, it is yet to become clear what has prompted the Congress to bring such a significant reduction in military aid to Pakistan.
The move of US Congress has come in time, when the PTI’s chairman, Imran Khan has given indications of continuing working with White House. It is yet to be seen how civil and military establishment in Islamabad reacts to the bill. What is clear is that both countries are adopting the paths where both sides are less dependent on each other.
The abrupt changes in the South Asian Policy of the mercurial President in White House and his team show that the Trump administration has no clear path on how to deal with the Afghan conundrum. Therefore, the officials in Washington are seeking other options to make Pakistan bend on its knees. Nevertheless, Trump administration needs to keep in mind that without an uncooperative Pakistan, peace in Afghanistan will remain a dream unfulfilled.