Donald Trump’s first tweet of 2018 made a huge splash around the world. It was that rare sort of Trump foreign policy statement that didn’t deny collusion with Russia, or taunt North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. It was about withdrawing US aid to Pakistan.
The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018
My first instinct was to agree with the premise. I was shocked by positive truths while visiting Pakistan, but I have long thought that the United States should predicate the billions in military and civil aid to Pakistan on effectiveness and measurable progress towards eliminating terrorism and increasing economic development, respectively. It would be fair to take some of that aid away at this point. Pakistan’s government has proven over and over again that a large chunk of US aid will go to build up its armed forces against India and twist the spigot of American blood in Afghanistan to and fro. This dirty double game has been going on ever since 9/11.
Ending the double game is a noble goal. But it’s not so simple. The Trump administration is ramping up the US military presence in Afghanistan by thousands of troops, even as yet another American soldier was killed and four others critically injured there on the day of Trump’s above tweet. The longest war in American history continues even further into Year 17. We are in endless territory when it comes to US blood and treasure and the suffering of the Afghan people. We hardly know or understand who we are fighting and why. The media hardly bothers to cover that war anymore even when Americans die. It’s the textbook definition of mission creep.
Pakistan has been a beneficiary of this war’s largesse from the start, from Bush through Obama to Trump, partly because the US military supply lines run heavily through Pakistan’s ports, airspace, and roads. America pays dearly for the right to use Pakistan’s resources. Cutting off US funds to Pakistan could also result in an explosion of fire and fury as terrorists are unleashed from Pakistani territory and other parts of the world in retaliation by dark networks we aren’t very good at tracking.
Like most half-cocked Trump policy prescriptions, the foreign policy establishment in the United States has no plan prepared to follow through on the threat. The Tweet was poorly timed. How can you cut off aid to Pakistan when you need them for your war? Without winding down the war in Afghanistan, or being able to control Pakistani terrorists or nukes minus the local government’s help, Pakistan still has America by the balls. Even drone strikes in Pakistan require local human intelligence. These things cannot be separated. India’s rejoicing may be premature, and I’m not the only one saying so.
We shall watch now how it all unfolds.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor