President Donald Trump, while unfurling his first Afghan-South Asia strategy, made it abundantly clear that the US no more looked for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan and from now on, would seek military goals saying, “Our troops will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition.” He also announced sending 4000 more US troops to Afghanistan to achieve the military objectives.

What he said regarding US policy towards Pakistan can be summarised in his own words as follows; “Pakistan provides safe havens to agents of chaos, violence and terror. We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond. Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by harbouring criminals and terrorists. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear: We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America, and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world for that matter. US has been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars. At the same time, they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change immediately. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilisation, order and to peace. Another critical part of the South-Asia strategy of US is to further develop its strategic partnership with India.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later briefing the journalists about the details of the strategy, said Pakistan would suffer consequences if it did not get behind the renewed US effort to help Kabul repel the Taliban and force them to negotiate a political settlement. He said we have put people on notice that if they were providing safe havens to terrorists, they should be ready as we would engage those safe havens. He said that the President has made clear that terrorists would be attacked wherever they live, warning that Pakistan might lose its privileged status of a major non-NATO US ally if it continued to give safe havens to extremists.

The allegations of Pakistan providing safe havens to the terrorists are not new as successive US administrations have been pointing accusing fingers towards it while acknowledging the sacrifices given by its security forces in the fight against terrorism. But the tone and tenor of what President Trump has said is very threatening. He did not simply accuse Pakistan, but also warned of dire consequences in case it did not stop sheltering terrorists immediately and fell in line with the new US strategy. For me, the most worrying part of his statement is his remark, “We must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us or anywhere in the world for that matter.” It is pertinent to note that Trump, in one of his elections speeches on Afghanistan, said that the US would have to keep an eye on neighbouring nuclear Pakistan.

The US option for a military solution in Afghanistan notwithstanding the failure of the military adventure over the last sixteen years does not augur well for prospects of peace in the war-ravaged country. The Taliban have already warned the US administration that the reinforcement of US troops would have disastrous consequences. The first indication of things to come was a suicide attack within 24 hours of the speech of Donald Trump in the Helmand province that reportedly killed a number of people. The Taliban have been demanding complete withdrawal of the US-NATO troops before they could even think of negotiating with the Afghan government. The US, by continuing with its belligerent posture with renewed vigour, has actually triggered the process of unending instability in the region that might have serious fallout for neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan.

The US decision to seek more Indian involvement in Afghanistan is yet another recipe for disaster; a proposition not acceptable to the Taliban. It is also inimical to the strategic interests of Pakistan in the region.

It is indeed a very serious development for Pakistan, and the Foreign Ministry has termed the accusations of the US President as disappointing and said in categorical terms that Pakistan did not provide safe havens to the terrorists. The US, instead of blaming Pakistan must help it fight the menace of terrorism. Pakistan has been persistently denying the allegations, more so after operation Zarb-e-Azb under which it claimed to have taken indiscriminate action against all terrorist entities.

Logically speaking, Pakistan’s argument in her defence that peace in Afghanistan was vital for peace in Pakistan, sounds very cogent and loaded with verifiable realities. Pakistan has been at the forefront of all initiatives to find a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan. During the frequent interactions between the military and civilian leaders, Pakistan has also been trying its best to put across its viewpoint with regards to US scepticism but unfortunately, the US does not seem convinced.

Under the circumstances, Pakistan needs to ensure constant engagement with the US and perhaps develop a joint mechanism to verify or otherwise, the allegations of safe havens in Pakistan to remove the haze that exists in this regard.

The new US strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia is unrealistic and biased, dictated by strategic and commercial interests of the US and its western allies. Blaming Pakistan for harbouring terrorists without any concrete and corroborative evidence and completely shutting their eyes to the acts of terrorism sponsored by India in Pakistan and the reign of terror let loose by Indian troops on the people of Kashmir, is absolutely unfair and negates their claims for being protectors of human rights causes. The indifference shown by the US and its allies, particularly the EU to Indian sponsored terrorism and violations of human rights in Kashmir could have a very serious impact on peace and stability in this region and maybe even beyond it.

It is obligatory on the US as the sole superpower in the world to look at the ground realities by removing the blinkers of purely commercial and strategic interests and play her role in settling disputes around the globe, including that of Kashmir through peaceful means rather than fomenting conflicts and instability. The new strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia is a perfect recipe for disaster and needs to be revisited before it is too late. Pakistan is a self-respecting nuclear state, therefore the threatening posture adopted by Trump is simply unacceptable. There is a need for productive and continued engagement to remove misgivings and develop an environment of mistrust and working collectively to fight the common enemy; terrorism.