When Donald Trump became the President of the United States of America in 2016, it caused a political shift that shook the very core of the international world order. The election results came as a shock for most political commentators in the U.S. and around the globe. Perhaps the best example of the utter unexpected nature of this development came from the Trump family itself — I vividly remember how, when the early results came out, the Trumps themselves were rather surprised by what was happening. Yes, they expected the race to be much closer than what the “fake media” portrayed; but could it be real, could they win the entire thing? – And they did, and Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America. Ever since November 2016 a lot has happened — from claims of Russian interference, to Twitter becoming the de facto medium for policy debate in the White House. I’ll focus less on U.S. internal issues in this article — primarily because I admit it felt rather nice knowing that the U.S. got a taste of its own medicine — and by that, I mean interfering in electoral processes of other sovereign states and actively lobbying to influence results. Rather, I will be focusing on what, two years into its tenure, the Trump administration and its policies imply for Pakistan and the greater geographical region that surrounds it. In January of 2018, Donald Trump, through Twitter, criticised Pakistan, and in particular its military for providing safe heavens to militant groups that targeted American forces in Afghanistan — he also accused the GHQ boys of playing a double game — taking aid from the U.S. on one hand and also simultaneously patronizing the militants that would from time to time attack U.S. forces – “…lies and deceits …” he said; ending the tweet with an emphatic “No more!”. It became obvious that the administration was going to cut military aid to Pakistan. And just a few weeks ago, a payment of $300 million in military aid was cancelled with the U.S. citing Pakistan’s lack of action against terror groups as the reason. But if one was to look a little deeper, there seems to be more to the story here. Although the overt nature of the current administration’s criticism is new, the past two presidents also had their suspicions pertaining to Pakistan — and particularly its military establishment: Part of the reason why Obama felt it was advisable to keep Pakistan in the dark as the U.S. Navy SEALs hunted down Osama Bin Laden in 2011, in his hideout in Abottabad, Pakistan. But neither Obama nor President Bush before him risked alienating an important partner in the region in the manner that the Trump organization has done. The past two presidents also had their suspicions pertaining to Pakistan and particularly its military establishment: Part of the reason why Obama felt it was advisable to keep Pakistan in the dark when OBL was killed in Abottabad Although on the surface this might allude to the brazen nature of the current U.S. administration, the truth remains that the bulk of American foreign policy regardless of who is in power, is established within the nexus of Pentagon, the Industrial-Military Complex and the corporate forces that transcend the elected portions of the U.S. establishment. Many experts on the region point to the fact that this aggressive U.S. strategy also has an element of U.S.-China rivalry attached to it. Pakistan, despite being close the U.S., has always been on good terms with the Chinese. And since now that the Chinese are flexing their economic muscle in Pakistan — the U.S. feels threatened both economically and strategically, and is bent on putting more pressure on Pakistan, particularly its military establishment. All this at first seems ironic, as it has been the U.S. that has historically played an important role in the militarization of the Pakistani State — from the days of Ayub Khan up to Musharraf and beyond; the bilateral history of the two countries is clear and is well documented. But on a closer look, for a trained eye — one that can look beyond the headlines on CNN and BBC — it all makes perfect sense. Despite the age-old rhetoric of U.S. foreign policy aimed at furthering free ‘American Values’ – something that always makes me chuckle when reiterated on popular media outlets, American Foreign Policy in almost all parts of the developing world has been one based on the principles of real politics. From Latin America to the Middle East, and from Asia to beyond, America has supported authoritarian regimes throughout the last century. The list of authoritarian regimes that U.S. has fostered and patronized is so long that penning it down here would have me exceed the word-limit of this article! Having said that, the U.S. support for such regimes doesn’t stem out of an inherent desire to bring oppression and misery to rest of the world — rather it is purely a strategy that ensures that in all key regions of the world, the U.S. has support of those who wield power. For instance, many a time the U.S. has been quick to withdraw support of former favourite despots the moment they felt that the despot’s hold on power was being superseded by other forces within. Not only that, in many instances the same despots, once the apple of the US’s eye, would find themselves staring down the barrel US guns, along with a few multinational organizations that shall remain unnamed. Examples of this were all too visible following the Arab Uprising at the start of the decade. Something similar is happening in Pakistan right now. The U.S., which has consistently helped keep Pakistan militarized, now feels that the same all-powerful military has outgrown its old self and is actively pursuing strategic regional partnerships that go against American interests. This argument becomes even more solid, given that the arguments stemming from the Pentagon and the White House are utterly ridiculous. Yes- perhaps parts of the Pakistani establishment might have played a double game! Perhaps indeed the militant groups hiding out in Pakistan attack American forces from time to time! But to claim, as does the U.S. administration, that the prime reason they have failed in Afghanistan is because of a few thousand militants crossing the border fighting against the might of NATO, supplemented by the Afghan army, is rather amusing, and one can’t help but shake their head at such a claim. The reality is that the hegemonic landscape of South Asia and the world in general is shifting — America is no longer the only big boy in town — the pentagon knows that it is in a war that needs to end soon as sustaining public support for more election cycles might be very difficult and complex. They’re mad at Pakistan — but they desperately need a way out without ceding control over to other important players in the greater game in Afghanistan. In this regard, the cutting of military aid to Pakistan may be the best thing that has happened for all interested parties -not only has this move saved American tax dollars and generated political leverage; it has also perhaps given a chance to the Pakistani establishment to reflect and perhaps reform. The writer is Graduate Student at Cornell University in the US. He can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, September 20th 2018.