A president who fires his cabinet ministers via a mere tweet is unstable, mercurial and erratic. A policy wonk like Thomas Friedman of The New York Times says, “We have a president who’s a disturbed person.” Setting off alarm bells, America is in danger according to Freidman. It’s in “code red” moment because of the man in the Oval Office. This week Trump had his foreign policy advisers, analysts and talk show hosts throw up their arms when he threatened to withdraw 2,000 American troops from Syria that provides a bulwark against the return of ISIS to the area. “It’s very costly for our country and it helps other countries a helluva lot more than it helps us,” was Trump’s snafued logic.
With a mercenary US president, Pakistan has already received a whacking from him. His very first tweet of 2018 slammed Islamabad, saying it had given the US nothing but “lies and deceit.” Therefore he decided to suspend $1.3 billion in US military aid to Pakistan as punishment for allegedly harbouring terrorists. Recently Foreign Policy magazine carried an article titled “Is Trump Ready to Dump Pakistan.” Given Trump’s current state of capriciousness and ignorance in foreign policy, doubled by the appointments of national security adviser John Bolton, a hardcore nationalist, and Mike Pompeo as the new secretary of state, Islamabad may become a pariah state. Outlined by the Foreign Policy journal are some of the measures being weighed by the Trump administration to permanently cut off the annual flow of military aid this year, which could “put a strain on Pakistan’s defense budget and deprive it of coveted U.S. military hardware.”
Apart from financial aid, “visa bans or other punitive measures against individual members of the Pakistani government, military, or ISI intelligence service suspected of allowing the Taliban and Haqqani militants to operate from sanctuaries inside Pakistan,” are being mooted according to current and former officials. Trump’s highhanded measures may well “represent a clear rebuke of Pakistan and signal the unraveling of an uneasy military alliance that was born during the Cold War and renewed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.” Saner voices advise restraint. Andrew Liepman, a 30-year-old CIA veteran, praises Pakistan for its “invaluable” help in hunting down al Qaeda leaders: “The substantial progress we made in dismantling the al Qaeda network could not have been accomplished without help from ISI,” he told Foreign Policy. And with the country’s strategic location and nuclear arsenal, a confrontation could risk a backlash by extremists and even a nightmare scenario where jihadis get hold of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, many fear.
Kamal Alam is a visiting fellow at the UK-based The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) famed for its avant-garde defence and security research. His article titled ‘The Bajwa Doctrine: The Pakistani Military Has Done More than Enough’ sets the record straight for Pakistan. According to Alam, “gone are the days of timidity and scurrying to please the Americans. This is being called the ‘Bajwa Doctrine’, and it suggests that the army should not do more, but rather the world must do more. The Pakistani military is far more confident than it was when the US threatened then president Pervez Musharraf to bomb Pakistan into the stone age if it did not comply with their demands.” Recently when Trump’s key aide Alice Wells visited Islamabad, she was kept at an “arm’s length” failing to “get a meeting with the senior command of the Pakistani military, as is the normal custom”.
As 2018 begins, it’s America who needs Pakistan and not the other way around, says Alam. US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis knows Islamabad is indispensable in the war against terrorism. But his president is crazy unpredictable with itchy fingers and may well one early morning dump Pakistan with just one tweet!
Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2018.