Another US Policy Flip-Flop
The unpredictability of the Trump doctrine’s policy on Pakistan continues; after what seemed to be some improvement in US-Pakistan relations, the Trump administration has informed Congress that it will take unilateral steps in areas of divergence with Pakistan while expanding cooperation between the two countries where their interests converge. In a report to Congress, the Pentagon delineated the need for a joint US-Afghan platform for combating more than 20 militant groups active in the region.
This stance is a curt one to take, that does nothing to counter either terrorism or cooperation with Pakistan. This is Pentagon’s first report after Trump’s speech in August; a speech that rattled many in Pakistan, who thought it an unfair attack against Islamabad. To take this stance now ignores the outrage and offence taken by Pakistani military and politics officials after Trump’s speech; Major General Asif Ghafoor reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to fighting terrorism, but never at the cost of Pakistan’s sovereignty and dignity.
The report calls for a fundamental change in the strategy, but does not lay out what it means. It is true that for some time, Pakistan has been inefficient in curtailing the influence of religious parties in elections- however, the link between that and the terrorist attacks in Afghanistan are extremely unsubstantiated. If by unilateral action, US means the involvement of India, then this message will never be accepted by the Pakistan government, with Islamabad gradually reducing dependence on US, through cooperation with China, is in a position to do so.
After the ambiguous visits of Tillerson and Mattis, this move further fuddles the communication gap between the two countries and confounds effective cooperation. Considering the recent statements by the government and the military, where the army stressed an ‘only cooperation will get cooperation stance, it may lead to a confrontation if attempted.