Military and Congressional support for a tougher approach was expressed this week in a US Armed Services Committee hearing on Afghanistan during which General John Nicholson, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, noted that 20 of the 98 groups designated by the United States as well as “three violent, extremist organisations” operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

While the key words here are “Afghanistan and Pakistan”, Pakistan is the only country deemed worthy of reproach by US congressmen, because unlike Afghanistan, Pakistan is not a failed state, and unlike Afghanistan whose fragile situation is thanks to US intervention, Pakistan is easier to use as a scrape goat.

The perception of state officials is that there was nothing new or significant in Gen Nicholson’s statement and that messages from the Trump administration are positive. Most of this is true as Gen Nicholson advocated working with Pakistan and its military, and disagreed with the suggestion that cutting off US aid to Pakistan would force it to cooperate. However, the Pakistani government is overestimating the Trump establishment’s good will, and the US in turn is underestimating ours.

There is pressure on the Trump administration to adopt a tougher position towards Pakistani support of militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The pressure comes the US military, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, and influential Washington-based think tanks. This is despite a Pakistani crackdown on militants in recent months that many see as half-hearted. It also after China blocked the United Nations Security Council from listing a prominent Pakistani militant as a globally designated terrorist. Hafiz Saeed, chief of the Jamaat Ud Dawa, is now under house arrest, however, to think the US is not watching and that it does not notice that there is scope for the JuD to change aliases and continue, is naïve.

Any weakness of appeasement of militants, however pragmatic it may feel to state institutions, would be like shooting oneself in the foot. US experts have suggested the Trump administration should wait a year with designating Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism while it takes steps to convince Pakistan to fundamentally alter its policies. This could be the worst thing to happen to Pakistan and Mr Trump will have no qualms about signing the executive order for this. Though it is frustrating that the US does not appreciate past efforts made to counter-terrorism, it is also true that there is much more that needs to be done - not just to improve international perceptions, but to make Pakistan safer for Pakistani citizens.