Pak-US relations: ‘American antiterrorism policies self-centered’

Published: December 15, 2018
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University of Tennessee Research Fellow Harrison Akins speaking at IPRI. PHOTO: EXPRESS

University of Tennessee Research Fellow Harrison Akins speaking at IPRI. PHOTO: EXPRESS

The US needs to establish its counter-terrorism policy keeping in view the local sensitivities of other nations.

American counter-terrorism policies have increased anti-Americanism in many Muslim countries.

The US needs to distinguish between international and domestic terrorism. “If you look at the trajectory of the two kinds of terrorism, there are very different outcomes. Number of international terrorist attacks each year remains relatively small. However, if we look at domestic terrorism, we see a different story,” said University of Tennessee Research Fellow Harrison Akins.

Unfortunately, Pakistan is one of those states, where there has been dramatic increase in domestic terrorist attacks, he added.

He made this statement during his visit to Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) on Friday, where he coined the term “terrorism trap”.

He further stated: “Domestic terrorist attacks have increased substantially after 2001 and especially after 2004. Unfortunately, Pakistan is one of those states, where there has seen dramatic increase in domestic terrorist attacks.”

Unfortunately, the US too often establishes counterterrorism policies based upon its own interests and tries to find a one-size-fits-all approach, which is not sensitive to local, political, social, cultural and historical contexts, he admitted.

Hence, what it pursues in Pakistan is the same which it pursues in Algeria, Yemen, Kenya, whereas all these states are so vastly different that it becomes difficult to imagine a single strategy working in all these different societies and contexts.

He briefly discussed the main foundations of US counterterrorism policy. Firstly, the US views the problem through a military approach. For instance, after Bush administration took over, it began to take military approach after 9/11. It was less about bringing the criminals to justice and more about making a statement; the latter became very important for the US to pursue. Secondly, the US has a broad conception of the enemy. There was a shift in US counterterrorism policy in 2004. Earlier, cost of Unilateral Action Policy became too high, which led the US to opt for preventive approach. This change in policy explains the increase in Domestic Terrorism leading to ‘Terrorism Trap,’ he explicated.

Later in the question and answer session, responding to a question on warming India-US ties, Akins said that Republican Party and BJP have many commonalities. Both have serious reservations about Islam and both have strong business ties.

Also, Indian diaspora has a strong influence by lobbying in the US which defines India-US relations. While Pakistan is mired in security issues, India-US business ties are growing. Although, India is a bigger economy, Pakistan remains a key stakeholder in South Asia, he stated.

Akins recommended that the US needs to move beyond the narrow focus of security perspective and engage with Pakistan as a sovereign nation. “We need to establish and enhance business exchanges; person-to-person exchanges; and scholarship programmes. Both sides need to focus on what is common and need to identify areas of cooperation, from that we can begin to rebuild trust. Then from that position of trust, both countries can begin working on serious issues,” he stated. “If we continue to pound pressure on security interests, it will not help. US should not work from a one-track mind,” he held.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 15th, 2018.

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