By Asif Durrani
November 25, 2018
President Trump’s remarks against Pakistan last Sunday once again reminded the policy makers of the two countries about the seriousness of the Pakistan-US relations negotiation, especially when a maverick person like Trump is directly involved in the conduct of bilateral relations. During an interview with the Fox TV President Trump again blamed Pakistan of “not doing a damn thing for the US despite receiving billions of dollars”. This was the second time in less than a year that President Trump so bluntly used derogatory language against Pakistan. Either he is so naïve or his advisors deliberately poison him about Pakistan that his remarks lack basic etiquettes of conversation about a sovereign country.
Prime Minister Imran Khan rightly put the record straight when in his twitter message he rejected Trump’s tirade against Pakistan in a series of tweets, saying “Pakistan participated in the US ‘war on terror’ even though no Pakistani was involved in the September 2001, attacks on America; Pakistan suffered 75,000 casualties in this war and over $123 billion was lost to economy; US ‘aid’ was a miniscule $20 billion.”
Regarding Trump’s claim of giving billions of dollars, PM Khan reminded the American President that “Our tribal areas were devastated & millions of people were uprooted from their homes. The war drastically impacted the lives of ordinary Pakistanis. Pakistan continues to provide free lines of ground and air communications (GLOCs/ALOCs). Can Mr Trump name another ally that gave such sacrifices?” asked Prime Minister Khan.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Trump has chosen twitter, a public forum, to malign Pakistan in utter disregard of diplomatic norms and etiquettes. And he has been taking relations with Pakistan so casually that he dragged Pakistan without substantiating his argument.
It is apparent that Mr Trump is unaware of the ground realities of Afghanistan. He seems to be unaware of the reports of his own Special Inspector General on Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) which woefully describes the wasteful expenditure on Afghanistan without returns to the US, either in terms of political stability or socio-economic development in the war-ravaged country.
What Prime Minister Imran Khan did not tell President Trump out of politeness and what he should know in earnest is, first, that Afghanistan has become a narco-state under the noses of US-NATO forces, producing $50 billion worth of heroine for the European markets. Out of which approximately $5 billion returns to Afghanistan to line the pockets of who-is who of Afghanistan, including Taliban. Therefore, America will have to accept the blame of making Afghanistan a narco-state and contributing to the war ravaged economy of the country. It is equally responsible for encouraging the warlords to keep the country destabilised and at times presenting notorious warlords as heroes which can hardly contribute to the stability of Afghanistan.
Second, SIGAR claims that the US spent $168 billion on Afghanistan’s reconstruction during the past 17 years. Anyone familiar with Afghanistan and its socio-economic conditions in 2018, will hear this news with raised eyebrows as all socio-economic indicators tell a different story and despite claims of spending billions of dollars Afghanistan is still ranked at the bottom of human development indicators. It is not surprising that 70-80 percent of the American money is straightaway taken away by the American contractors while the rest is spent at the whims of the American bosses serving in Afghanistan. Mr Trump needs to ask his own administration “where did the money go?”
Third, Mr Trump has not been briefed of Indian machinations in Afghanistan; under the guise of reconstruction Indian companies, especially Border Roads Organisation (BRO), have largely been hunting for moles to create chaos in Pakistan. India infiltrated Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and has been spending money through tribals to stoke unrest in Pakistan. Balochistan is the new target for Indians, where its smartness cost its ace spy Kulbhushan Jadhav a Commander rank Naval Officer deployed by the Indian Spy agency RAW. Obviously, Mr. Trump ‘wouldn’t know’ what is happening in Afghanistan to create unrest in Pakistan. For him it is the ‘billions of dollars’ script which matters irrespective of the cost Pakistan has to pay for America’s misadventure.
Fourth, Taliban and Haqqani Network are considered as products of Pakistan. Mr Trump should not forget the old British adage about Afghans; “you can rent an Afghan, you cannot buy him”. If Taliban and Haqqanis are in Pakistan’s pocket then there is a need to change the history of Afghanistan which claims that “Afghans are fiercely independent people”. Mr. Trump should know that their staunch allies Karzai and Ghani are labelled as ‘American puppets’ which is why Taliban have refused to talk to the Afghan government in Kabul. In Afghan, especially in Pashtun tradition you cannot survive with such a ‘title’ even if you were to stay in power for 17 years. Mr Trump’s diatribe against Pakistan cannot deliver him Taliban come what may. He has to listen to Pakistan’s advice of promoting reconciliation in Afghanistan.
Fifth, instead of wasting hundreds and million dollars of bombs, Mr Trump would be well advised to win the sympathies of Afghan population by giving them resources for which majority of Afghans have the absorption capacity. Agriculture and livestock are sectors in which Afghans have the expertise to excel and can engage in gainful employment. By making available livestock and substitute crops people can be persuaded not to grow poppy and the country can be turned into a sustainable economy in the shortest possible time.
Lastly, there is realisation at the regional level not to allow Afghanistan suffer perennially at the hands of unscrupulous warlords and drug barons. All of Afghanistan’s neighbours support the idea of reconciliation in Afghanistan which was also evident in the statements of these countries at the Moscow Conference on Afghanistan held on November 9. The sooner the US heads towards reconciliation without encouraging warlords, the sooner the tone for the future contours of a stable and prosperous Afghanistan will be set. And for that the American president has to be on top of his brief about Afghanistan. Right now, you don’t know anything about Afghanistan, Mr. Trump.
Asif Durrani is a former ambassador.