The rising tide of violence in Afghanistan has naturally brought Pakistan’s role in the conflict under spotlight. The latter appearing sufficiently bright to finally rouse a certain unquiet American from his slumber. Ever the man of action, Donald Trump has initiated an inter-agency regional review aiming to scrutinise the US relationship with its number one frenemy: Pakistan. Oh, and of course, the Afghan quagmire that the US still has found no sustainable means of exiting after 16 long years. All this coincides conveniently with the apprentice-president’s decision to send a 4,000-troop surge to the said quagmire.
The official Washington line is that all it needs is these few thousand soldiers to drag the Taliban to the negotiating table. Whereas the US should finally wake up to the fact that yet more war cannot bring a peace that has long been elusive.
All initial speculation on the review seems to suggest that America will likely adopt a stricter line towards Pakistan under a Trump presidency. The fear for Islamabad is that the review has been set to coincide with the tried-and-failed formula of adding a few troops here and there and then scape-goat the Pakistani state when it all goes belly up. Indeed, the review reportedly has in place a contingency plan of sorts in case this happens. Reducing aid further is said to be on the cards, as is the beefing up of the much contested drone programme here. Another ‘threat’ could possibly be a rescinding of Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally. Though this brings us little substantial benefits — a possible ‘demotion’ would represent a symbolic blow to Pakistan-US relations.
Of course, we support a Pakistani state apparatus that is more responsible in its dealings with Afghanistan. Any attempts at strategic depth we naturally condemn. But we also censure those who constantly blame Pakistan for all of Afghanistan’s troubles as well all the US woes in that country. For this sidesteps America’s own egregious role in the conflict. Throughout the twentieth century the US America has pursued aggressive, colonial policies in countries failing to adhere to its projected world order. Vietnam, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Chile, Cuba, Iraq, Libya, Syria and so the list goes on.
Peace in Afghanistan will not be secured by way of increased American boots on the ground. Or by blaming Pakistan. Similarly, a proxy war will not result in one country successfully carving out the policies of another. The US must learn from its past mistakes and Pakistan must not antagonise Afghanistan any further. Only then can we truly start dreaming the collective dream of peace in Afghanistan. *
Published in Daily Times, June 24th, 2017.