Politics

Trump’s Afghan Strategy Eclipses US-Pakistan Relations

As U.S. President Donald Trump puts immense pressure on Pakistan, Russia and China’s role in Islamabad could eclipse America’s and further strain US-Pakistan relations.

While millions of Americans, including President Trump himself, were captivated by a total solar eclipse on Monday – the first in nearly four decades – Pakistan was bracing for a possible eclipse in US-Pakistan relations.

US-Pakistan relations
Pakistan / Pixabay

Trump’s long-awaited Afghan strategy puts a great deal of pressure on Pakistan to “demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace.” Meanwhile, Islamabad is reportedly bracing itself for a “tough time” in relations with its long-time ally. Even though Washington and Islamabad have been close since the Cold War era, their relations have gotten particularly cold in the past few years.

In his televised address to the nation on Monday night, President Trump slammed Pakistan for giving a “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror” and warned the South Asian nation that it has “much to lose” from continuing to harbor “criminals and terrorists.” Trump also hinted that the U.S. could cut financial aid to Islamabad if it fails to commit to the fight against terrorism on its soil.

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars, at the same time they are housing the same terrorists that we are fighting,” the President said. “But that will have to change. And that will change immediately.”

His warning to Pakistan and his Afghan strategy are expected to strain US-Pakistan relations, pushing Islamabad further away from its Cold War-era ally. Meanwhile, Russia and China could outstretch their metaphorical arms to catch Pakistan as it falls off America’s support-jet. Two senior Pakistani officials familiar with Islamabad’s foreign policy plans told The Express Tribune that Islamabad is prepared for any outcome from Trump’s Afghan strategy, including seeking deeper ties with Moscow and Beijing.

Timeline: How did US-Pakistan relations go sour?

May 2, 2011: U.S. Navy SEALs kill Osama Bin Laden, Taliban’s head, on Pakistani soil. Islamabad was not aware of the secret operation.

2011: US-Pakistan relations reach an all-time low as the administration of President Barack Obama accuses Islamabad of sheltering other terrorists on its soil and withholds $800 million of aid to Pakistan.

November 26, 2011: US-led NATO forces kill 28 Pakistani soldiers in an airstrike.

2011: Pakistan immediately cuts off all NATO supplies to Afghanistan in the wake of the deadly airstrike and orders the US army to evacuate the Salala air base.

2011: Russia condemns the airstrike in Pakistan, calling it an assault on Islamabad’s sovereignty.

2011: The Pakistani government pushes to broaden its foreign policy options, including seeking closer ties with Russia despite their decades-long hostilities.

June 2012: Washington and Islamabad hold talks to end the blockade on NATO supplies. No consensus was reached.

July 2012: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologizes for the loss of lives in the 2011 airstrikes, and Pakistan reopens key supply routes in Afghanistan.

2014: Russia lifts embargo on arms sales to Pakistan.

2014: Later, Russia and Pakistan sign an agreement to expand their defense and military ties, resulting in an energy deal worth $1.7 billion.

2014: After years of tense ties, US-Pakistan relations somewhat improve after an unprecedented two-week-long visit by Pakistan’s most senior military official, Gen. Raheel Sharif.

Russia’s role in Pakistan grows as US loses its biggest ally in the region

2015: The Pakistani Army takes part in Russia’s Army War Games 2015 held in the Russian Far East.

2016: US Congress proposes $860 million in aid for Pakistan during the 2016-17 fiscal year.

2016: The Pakistani Army and Russian Army hold their unprecedented joint military exercises under the name of “Friendship 2016.”

January 20, 2017: Trump assumes office as President of the United States.

August 21, 2017: Trump gives the green light to deploy 4,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan, announces that he will put more pressure on Pakistan to stop giving safe havens to terrorists.

2017: The Trump administration is said to be considering more radical options to pressure Islamabad into fighting terrorism on its soil, such as: cutting aid, stripping Pakistan of its status as a non-NATO ally, and threatening to declare Islamabad a state sponsor of terrorism.

What does Trump’s Afghan strategy mean for Pakistan?

Trump’s actions to put new pressure on Pakistan to fight terrorism on its own soil could mark a new all-time low in US-Pakistan relations. But Islamabad is prepared for any outcome of Trump’s Afghan strategy, according to two unnamed senior Pakistani officials cited by the Tribune.

The officials claimed that in case of any radical measures by the U.S., the Pakistani government would have “no option but to seek even deeper and enhanced cooperation” with China and Russia. While the cooperation between Islamabad and Beijing has been consistent throughout the last few decades decades, it has been reaching new peaks since China announced the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project in 2014.

Even though Russia and Pakistan were rivals during the Cold War era, the two nations have managed to put their historic disagreements behind them in recent years. Moscow and Islamabad have stepped up their diplomatic, military and economic cooperation as Washington continues to lambaste Pakistan for allegedly sheltering terrorist elements on its soil.

It would not be surprising if the Trump administration’s mounting pressure on Islamabad drove the South Asian nation even closer to Russia and China. In fact, Pakistan has been on that course for quite a while, if the growing Pak-Russia and Pak-China cooperations are any indications.

Growing Pak-Russia partnership could end Afghan crisis

With China boosting its investment into CPEC from $46 billion to $62 billion earlier this year, the Pakistan-Russia partnership is on the rise as well. Last week, Pakistani Ambassador to Russia Qazi Khalilullah declared that the two nations will increase their cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including the energy and military sectors.

At a gala dedicated to the 70th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence, Khalilullah revealed that Pakistanis would participate in Russia’s Army 2017 exhibition from August 22 through August 27. The visit of a Pakistani delegation is set to explore the possibilities for further cementing defense ties between the two nations.

Russia’s businesses are already embracing the vast potential of strong relations with Pakistan. Earlier this month, Russian firms signed a deal to bring investment to Pakistan and establish a medium-sized oil refinery in district Kohat of KP province.

Even though Trump has been criticizing Pakistan for what he would describe as an ineffective fight against terrorism in Afghanistan, Russia views Islamabad as a robust ally to help achieve peace and stability in the war-torn nation. Earlier this year, Moscow, Islamabad and Beijing held a series of talks aimed at bringing long-awaited peace to Afghanistan.

The new Afghan policy crafted by the Trump administration could not only throw Islamabad deeper into a growing alliance with Russia and China but also help find a long-term solution in Afghanistan. As noted by Pakistani analyst and The News commentator Mosharraf Zaidi, Pakistan is the “only country in the region that has the kinetic battlefield experience of victory against Daesh types” on Afghan soil.

“Not only does Pakistan have a robust and battle-tested military, it also has been traditionally the most sympathetic to Afghanistan’s parties to conflict,” Mr. Zaidi concluded.

Trump’s Afghan strategy could backfire

While many experts view CPEC as China’s ambitious plan to challenge U.S. strategic interests in Asia, others believe that America’s role in the world is shrinking.

Trump’s Afghan strategy could backfire and act against the interests of the U.S., which has spent more than $117 billion in Afghanistan alone since 2002. With Beijing, Moscow and Islamabad working together to resolve the Afghan crisis, any radical measures by the Trump administration are expected to further deteriorate US-Pakistan relations and, as a result, drive Islamabad closer to China and Russia.

If China, Russia and Pakistan manage to find the key to the Afghan crisis collectively and bring peace and stability to the warn-torn nation, it could play a cruel joke on U.S. influence in the region.

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  • Ernie922

    Nobody with half a brain believes that Afghanistan can ever prevent radicals from taking over significant portions of that country. Actually, I hesitate to call Afghanistan a country — it is more like a collection of tribes but not really a nation-state. It is a transit point and haven for terrorist groups — and Pakistan has assisted and protected some of those terrorist tribes.

    Personally, I would like to see the U.S. end diplomatic relations with Pakistan and just let you guys sink into a well-deserved oblivion.

    I don’t care one whit about Afghanistan anymore than I care about Pakistan and I suspect most Americans agree with me. Neither Afghanistan or Pakistan is worth one American life or one American dollar.

  • Randian Tv

    USA would still lose in Afghanistan because its beloved Afghanistan is an uncivilised nation & provides shelter to enemies of Pakistan, Central Asia, China & Russia and these organisations will unite & bang the stupid Afghanistan. BTW, it has already happened ! Afghanistan provides shelter to those terrorists who kill our school children ! Afghanistan doesn’t deserve to exist in this region ! You stupid Afghanistan’s 50% territory is under the control of Taliban & IS-k ! Whom are you trying to fool !

  • Ernie922

    Nobody here cares about a “smooth trade route” from Pakistan into Afghanistan. That is your personal delusion.

    What we DO care about is a reliable partner who believes in democratic values and refuses to provide aid and comfort to terrorist organizations or networks such as the Haqqani family. That network maintains ties with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and Pakistan’s army.

    Nobody believes Pakistani officials regarding how Osama Bin Laden was able to live for YEARS in a Pakistani location which was less than one mile from Pakistan’s elite military academy.

  • Randian Tv

    Sure but do find a partner in this region who can provide you a smooth trade route for your Military supplies, provide its military base to make a terrorist country like Afghanistan a safe country & help you hunting down Al-Qaeda terrorists ! Even those terrorists in Afghanistan openly said that we killed Pakistani children because their parents were helping Americans. Now we don’t know what sort of help you want from a country of just $27b economy.

  • Ernie922

    Nothing in your bigoted reply makes any sense. If you think authoritarian or totalitarian countries are your “natural ally” or “friends” — then you deserve everything that happens to your country. And please don’t bother contacting the United States the next time you experience any sort of natural disaster and need assistance of any kind. Instead, ask your “natural allies” for their assistance.

  • AlphaOS

    How can they fly such aircrafts? Isn’t their a training protocol, lockdown system for the jets. Where did these attackers get their training from? Why was the base left unattended and open to unauthorized personnel?

    Looks like duping the world is a difficult task for ‘murica.

  • AlphaOS

    Why was your air-defense systems so slow to pickup unauthorized access to jet aircrafts? Why was your response team so slow?

    Why did lucky-larry include a condition in Buildings contract on terrorism?

    Larry was SO lucky… He claims it was TWO separate terrorist attacks so claimed on the insurance twice. BOTH targeting larry’s property, only his.

    Why did the non-struck building suddenly fall down even-though no jet targeted that specific building.

    Attacker gets obliterated into flames, luckily passport survives. WOW.

    I’ve seen buildings burn, but a building that big falling in such a clean lateral drop within MINUTES! Is beyond logical sense, I’ve seen buildings completely burnt but remain standing.

    Why did Bush go into Oil and Weapons trade business all of a sudden?

  • AlphaOS

    Who attacked Vietnam, managed to inflict local populace and friendlies to chemical gas (agent orange), leaving them severely diseased, later on after failing badly, blamed Cambodia, for losing the war.

    Who attacked Iraq under false guise of Iraq having WMDs and Chemical weapons. Later on after getting Saddam Hussein murdered and falsely accusing him as a dictator and individual who uses chemical weapons against his own people. Later on to find nothing at all. Finally, blaming Iran for failing the war (even-though forcing them to use Jets and bombard Iraq against their will).

    Who is funding Syrian rebels and ISIS in Syria? Why does USA “accidentally” drop weapons to the terrorists? Was it because they decided to drop the lousy dollar and not peg currency based on float but gold?

    Why did suddenly ISIS come into existence when US gets into conflict with Syria?

    Even funnier case, when Philippines showed US the middle-finger all of a sudden ISIS pops-up in Philippines. Now, that’s funny – how in the world did they end up their and right after US-Filipino spat?

    Who attacked Afghanistan claiming rubbish that a crazed bearded old-man carried out a terrorist incident of biggest proportions, strangely also targeting Pentagons war budget office which was checking accountability on bubbled up military budget.

    It seems the country with the real issues is USA.

  • AlphaOS

    US blamed Cambodia for their failures in Vietnam (watch how they used their Vietnam allies (South Vietnam) and used agent orange chemical leaving them exposed – they were used like tissues and thrown into trash-bin). They blamed Iran for their failures in Iraq (everyone knows the truth). They are now blaming Pakistan (for a war that Pakistan never started, Pakistan specifically mentioned being neutral and will provide US assistance only when Pakistan decides to). Our army is not your pawn, it should be a privilege when we decide to assist. BUT, instead filthy yankees instead of recognizing Pakistan’s efforts and success (terrorism has dropped by a huge percentage here in Pakistan) these ugly two-faced yankees start yapping rubbish and nonsense. They say something else in Pakistan and as soon as they head back to US, they say some other rubbish!

    I still remember these two-faced hooligan Americans praising Taliban when the Americans were using them against the Soviets (mainly Russia since USA considers Russia and enemy – they always follow encroachment policy when it comes to Russia and China). That’s why they’re setting up bases in neighboring countries since USA doesn’t fight on it’s own land it uses other foolish dumb countries. USA doesn’t give a flying-fuq about Ukraine, Vietnam etc., it’s their interests and long-term goals that count.

    To hell with such a disgusting nation, ruled by hooligans and West Virginian yankee inbred rednecks!

    Frankly, I always liked Russians and Chinese more than the ugly, backstabbing, untrustworthy, lying, two-faced yankees.

    At least, you know you can count on China. But the Americans are the most biggest least ethical people in existence.

    America’s been at war for 200+ years! I think the world knows which country is the real problem-child. Their latest strange trend in attacking Muslim countries (the weak ones since, they can’t attack those which are financially too strong or have a very powerful defense and military).

    USA uses other countries like canon-fodder, in order to shield them. While they attack the country they deem (impossible to control). If that doesn’t work, USA sanctions it and encourages it’s allies (pawns) to do the same.

  • sami shahid

    Seems like people just wanted Trump to insult Pakistan at front of the world while Afghans continue to provide shelter & logistics to Anti Pakistan terrorist groups. Well this is not going to work because we are a civilised nation & we will definitely take revenge for the massacre of our 180 school children & Afghanistan is responsible for the massacre of our children.

  • sami shahid

    We are not but do find another route for you NATO supply and I’m sure that nobody in this region would help you. China is our neighbor & Russia is our natural allie. We don’t want any sort of friendship with a coward country like USA who has been building military bases all around the world to save its gay people from Russian Army. Enough said

  • sami shahid

    Fine, find another route for the NATO supply. I’m sure nobody in this region would help you.

  • sami shahid

    What do you think Afghanistan is ? Dude, those Chechen & Uzbek radicals are in Afghanistan not Pakistan. Afghanistan is an epicentre of Global terrorism & US army is a failed institute which can only invade countries like Iraq & Afghanistan. Now STFU

  • Hussain Khan

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  • Njunaid

    In real time, Both the US and the Taliban has War based Economies, but One has a greater stake in fighting than the other. Lets see the One with only economic interest calls it quit.

  • Mark

    “If China, Russia, & Pakistan manage to find a key to the Afghan crisis & bring peace and stability to the area, it would diminish (be bad for) U.S. influence.” -Polina Tikhonova
    Assuming Ms. Tikhonova’s reference to “peace & stability” includes the neutralization/pacification of terrorists, why should America care if someone else finds the key? Sure, “influence” is important on the world stage but shouldn’t those with the solutions have the most influence (as opposed to the guy with the biggest gun)? Allowing ego to guide foreign policy always leads to war & more war. If our competitors think they have an Afghan solution, we ought to work with them to make it happen not against them to protect our ego.

  • Ernie922

    Pakistan has never been an ally of the United States and we should stop pretending otherwise.

  • Duane Kimball

    UGH… that’s one way to get people to read your story is to put Eclipse in your title so searches will return this story … nice

  • computersaurus

    What a massive load of elephant crap this article is…my guess is that this was ghostwritten by the Pakistani Intelligence Services, the same folks that had Mr Bin Laden living down the block from one of their headquarters and could not FIND him !!!

    Difficult to see how Russia benefits from a policy of not pressuring these idiots to clean up their act when it comes to fighting rabid islamic terror. can anyone in Russia spell Chechnya ?…pretty sure that many Chechen rads are getting safe haven/ training in Pakistan.

  • Odis Lee

    Relations have become strained in recent years because Pakistan has been harboring the people who we are at war with. We had to illegally enter their country to get Bin Laden. We were able to find where he was but the Pakistanis had no clue? Come on, that defies belief. Pakistan says they are our allies. Time to act like it and support us against terrorists and their ilk.

  • Lucky SF

    Pakistan is a beggar, if US wont pay then they will sell themselves to China/Russia. China already owns them. $46 “investment” actually needs to be repaid to China by Pakistan and there is no scenario where it will happen. Chinese will take their land and enslave the pakis for years to come. So Pakistan is simply going from licking US shoes to Chinese shoes. I would say its a major downgrade!

  • Rocky Roque

    American civilian and military aid to Pakistan, once the third-largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance, is expected to total less than $1 billion in 2016, down from a recent peak of more than $3.5 billion in 2011, according to U.S. government data. Don’t you want to throw up?
    throw up