Saturday, August 26, 2017

Impact of Trump's Afghan Strategy on Pakistan

What is US President Donald Trump's new Afghan strategy? What are its key elements? More troops? No deadlines? Partnership with India? More pressure on Pakistan? Is it really "new" or just a rehash of earlier Bush and Obama era strategies?

How will Pakistan respond to pressure? Has similar or greater pressure worked in the past? Is it likely to work this time? Does Trump administration have more or less leverage with Pakistan than Bush and Obama administrations?

What are Pakistan's legitimate security interests in Afghanistan? Why does Pakistan believe India is using the Afghan soil to launch attacks in Pakistan? What is the way forward in Afghanistan? Can the US military defeat the Afghan Taliban?

What about the emergence of ISIS in Afghanistan? Do Iran and Russia need to be involved in addition to India and Pakistan to stabilize Afghanistan? What will a regional solution look like?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Misbah Azam discusses these questions with special guest United We Reach Chairperson Sabahat Rafiq and regular panelist Riaz Haq (

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan ISI: The Bogeyman of Afghanistan and United States

What is the Haqqani Network?

Trump's Afghan Strategy: Will Pakistan Yield to US Pressure?

Why is India Sponsoring Terror in Pakistan?

Karan Thapar Debunks Indian Narrative of Kulbhushan Yadav

Mullah Mansoor Akhtar Killing in US Drone Strike

Gen Petraeus Debunks Charges of Pakistani Duplicity

Husain Haqqani vs Riaz Haq on India vs Pakistan

Impact of Trump's Top Picks on Pakistan

Husain Haqqani Advising Trump on Pakistan Policy?

Gall-Haqqani-Paul Narrative on Pakistan

Pakistan-China-Russia vs India-US-Japan

Robert Gates' Straight Talk on Pakistan


Riaz Haq said...

#Trump's #AfghanStrategy Poised to Fail, #Pakistan's Premier Says. #Afghanistan #India #China … via @bpolitics

U.S. President Donald Trump’s strategy for the nation’s longest-running war in Afghanistan will meet the same fate as the plans of his predecessors, according to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Failure.

“From day one we have been saying very clearly the military strategy in Afghanistan has not worked and it will not work,” Abbasi, who took over as premier three weeks ago, said in an interview Saturday night in Karachi. There has to be a “political settlement,” he added. “That’s the bottom-line.”

Abbasi said while his government supports the fight against terrorists it won’t let the war in neighboring Afghanistan -- the countries share a 2,500-kilometer (1,550 miles) border -- spill into Pakistan.

The stance of Abassi’s administration may complicate Trump’s plan for the region after he pledged more U.S. troops for Afghanistan and called on Pakistan to stop providing a safe haven for terrorists.

Failure by Trump to resolve the Afghan war risks even greater financial and human cost for the U.S., could leave it bogged down further in the conflict, and may become a further sore point for ties with China and Pakistan, with Trump already chiding Beijing for not doing enough to stop the turmoil. The war has cost the U.S. about $714 billion and several thousand lives.

Afghanistan’s government is slowly losing its hold over the country with the Taliban now controlling about 40 percent of the country, which U.S. officials say couldn’t have been possible without help from Pakistan’s military. That’s a charge the Asian nation disputes.

“This is a classic dialogue of the deaf between Washington and Islamabad because neither agrees on what needs to be pursued but both make a sham of going together,” said Burzine Waghmar, a member of the Centre for the Study of Pakistan at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. “U.S. priorities are not the same as Pakistan,” which wants
Afghanistan to stay dependent on it, he said.

The U.S. in previous offensives in Afghanistan used drones to attack alleged terrorists in Pakistan. NATO troops have also used Pakistani ports and roads to move equipment into land-locked Afghanistan.

“We do not intend to allow anybody to fight Afghanistan’s battle on Pakistan’s soil,” Abbasi said during the interview at the former home of the nation’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, while he was on a visit to the nation’s commercial capital. “Whatever has to happen in Afghanistan should be happening in Afghanistan,” he said, adding Pakistan doesn’t harbor terrorists.

China’s Role

Abbasi was picked by the ruling party as prime minister this month after the nation’s top court disqualified predecessor Nawaz Sharif in July.

Support and investment from China will help Pakistan defy the U.S.

China, which is seeking to build its economic and strategic clout in South Asia, has more than $50 billion in planned infrastructure projects in Pakistan. With China’s role increasing, Pakistan’s forces have fewer incentives to stop covertly supporting insurgent groups that strike inside Afghanistan and India, while targeting outfits that threaten its own domestic security, according to analysts.

Pakistan’s military has been conducting its own offensive against terrorists with the latest operation in the Khyber tribal region starting last month after Islamic State’s presence increased across the border in Afghanistan. The Pakistani army earlier said it had cleared North Waziristan on the Afghanistan border, a region the U.S. has called an “epicenter” of terrorism.

Mo D. said...

The issue here is “Aspirations of a Nation”. Afghanistan has been a victim of wars, invasions and persistent attacks by Radical Islamic terrorism.

The speech of President Trump echoes no more than the true sentiment of the majority of the Afghan people and this can be verified if one speaks to the many residents of the Bay area who are of Afghan origin. These folks are sick and tired of the Taliban wanting to impose their brand of Islam on what was once a secular place with great levels of freedom for people to go about their lives without being subjected to scrutiny and punishments from medieval laws.

The same Afghan origin folks will tell you about the great help they have received from India and how their families back home are benefiting from the generous funding of over 200 schools, dozens of medical centers and even building of the parliament house. There are more than 16,000 Afghani students in India getting higher education and thousands getting other training. India continues to provide financial assistance with the cumulative running over $ 3.0 billion to nurture the aspirations of a Secular society to defeat the radicals.

Yes, Afghanistan has large deposits of lithium and extracting these minerals requires expertise and skills which only a few countries possess and they will take the lead role in this exploration and mining operations.

Riaz Haq said...

Mo: "The same Afghan origin folks will tell you about the great help they have received from India and how their families back home are benefiting from the generous funding of over 200 schools, dozens of medical centers and even building of the parliament house."

Your Indian narrative is divorced from both the past history and the current reality in Afghanistan.

Afghan society has deep ethnic divisions among Tajiks, Uzbeks and Pashtuns. All united in 1980s to fight Russian invaders. India supported Russia.

Then there's a tiny minority of left leaning Pashtun Nationalists who supported Russians

After the Russians were forced out in late 1980s with US and Pakistani help, the Afghans splintered along ethnic lines with the Tajiks and Uzbeks forming Northern Alliance against Pashtuns. India, Iran and Russia supported Northern Alliance led by Ahmad Shah Masood.

With Pakistan's help, the Pashtuns defeated the Northern Alliance and took Kabul

Then came 911 attacks and Northern Alliance gained the upper hand with US support as the Pashtun Taliban were driven out. Today, NA along with a few Pashtun Nationalists rules Afghanistan.

Northern Alliance continues to receive support from India and its intelligence operatives in NDS help India attack Pakistan via proxies mainly the TTP.

Meanwhile, Iran and Russia are now supporting Pashtun Talibans

Indian use of Afghanistan to attack Pakistan has been confirmed by ex US Def Sec Chuck Hagel and others in the know

What we are seeing now is described by British Afghan war veteran Major Robert Gallinore as the third version of Tehran "Great Game" with India and Pakistan pitted against each other

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan postpones #US Assistant Sec of State's scheduled visit to #Islamabad after #Trump #AfghanStrategy speech

Pakistan postponed a visit by a U.S. acting Assistant Secretary of State, officials said, as small protests broke out against President Donald Trump’s accusations that Islamabad was prolonging the war in Afghanistan.

The visit of Alice Wells, acting assistant Secretary of State for South and Asian Affairs, scheduled for Monday, would have been the first high-profile visit by a U.S. official since Trump’s Afghan policy speech on Aug. 21.

“At the request of the Government of Pakistan, Acting Assistant Secretary Wells’ trip has been postponed until a mutually convenient time,” a U.S. Embassy spokesperson told Reuters in Islamabad on Sunday.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry released a statement with similar wording.

Neither side gave a reason for the postponement, but U.S. officials working in Pakistan have been on high-alert since Monday’s speech.
Trump accused Pakistan of harboring “agents of chaos” and providing safe havens to militant groups waging an insurgency against a U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

Pakistani officials responded by saying the U.S. should not “scapegoat” Pakistan and accused the American military of failing to eliminate militant sanctuaries inside Afghanistan.

In the southern metropolis of Karachi, police fired teargas at protesters from a religious student group as they began moving toward the U.S. consulate building.

Between 100 and 150 protesters carrying placards bearing pictures of President Trump and chanting anti-U.S. slogans were kept at bay by police and not allowed within 3 km (2 miles) of the consulate.

On Friday, banned Islamist organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa, held responsible by Washington and New Delhi for a series of coordinated attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008, staged nationwide protests but also failed to draw large numbers.

Riaz Haq said...

#Trump beware: #Pakistan’s luck playing #China card is turning. #AfghanStrategy #India #Afghanistan via @SCMP_news

As a result, if Pakistan comes under real pressure, China will probably be willing to extend forms of economic support and political protection it would previously have balked at. A version of this already played out in 2015, when Pakistan was being pushed by the Saudis and the UAE to play a significant role in the military campaign in Yemen. Chinese economic reassurances helped Pakistan to resist the entreaties and financial threats. China has also given stronger political cover to Pakistan in international forums.


At the lowest ebb of the last annus horribilis for US-Pakistan ties in 2011, soon after the special forces raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan brandished the China card: if relations with Washington were going into a tailspin, Islamabad would turn to Beijing instead. They were rebuffed. China discreetly made it clear to both the United States and Pakistan that the “all-weather friendship” was already as deep as they wanted it to be and that Islamabad needed to focus on fixing its relations with Washington.

With President Donald Trump’s announcement that the new US South Asia strategy will involve tightening the screws on Pakistan if it doesn’t address militant safe havens within its borders, the early indications are that the China card will be played again. This time, however, Pakistan may have more luck. The relationship with Beijing is in a very different place now and while China will take its usual care not to get caught in the middle, it is likely to provide a stronger backdrop of support than it did the last time US-Pakistan tensions escalated.

Some things haven’t changed. While it might seem that Beijing would see any deterioration of Islamabad’s ties with Washington as an opportunity to exploit, China has long perceived greater advantage in a robust US-Pakistan relationship. Given Pakistan’s most important role for China has been as a counterbalance to India, it wants Islamabad to benefit from solid US economic and military support. Healthy ties with Washington are seen by Beijing to place implicit limits on the scope of US-India relations. They also ensure that Pakistan doesn’t turn into yet another point of tension in US-China relations or act as an impediment to Sino-Pakistani security ties.

In addition to the fact that China’s once negligible economic interests in Pakistan have grown to the tune of tens of billions of dollars in investment, there is a political premium to making CPEC a success.

CPEC is also bound up in a deeper Chinese strategic commitment to Pakistan. As the People’s Liberation Army looks to expand its global power projection capabilities, it is strengthening ties with partners in areas ranging from naval cooperation to counterterrorism. In the last two years, the security relationship with Pakistani has been held up as a model to follow in this regard.

Riaz Haq said...

Analysis | #Trump says #Pakistan ‘harbors terrorists.’ The real story isn't so simple. #US pressure will not work

If Pakistan had a conscious policy of allowing a “haven for terrorists” in its territory, U.S. pressure might persuade the leadership to change it. Because the current situation reflects complicated domestic politics and any shift would probably result in pushback from the powerful military, the changes Washington wants are not likely to happen.

The United States has been putting pressure on Pakistan for decades, and neither tough words nor threats to cut off aid have worked for long. That suggests Pakistani leaders appear more afraid of a backlash from their society and military than they are of U.S. anger.

This does not bode well for the Trump administration’s new Afghanistan strategy. Stabilizing Afghanistan will be much easier with a cooperative Pakistan, but that is unlikely to happen. Instead of making threats, U.S. policymakers would be better off working out whatever temporary arrangements they can with Pakistan, realizing the constraints of Pakistan’s leaders — and perhaps considering other options that do not rely on Pakistan.

Saeed said...

Pakistan has given so much sacrifice it bring tears. Thank you for talking nazariat Pakistan but tell people over there about ajit devil and Kulbushan yadav because they have killed many innocent Pakistan children

Imran said...

Allah has given us beautiful Pakistan for Muslims. No enemy can take it from us because our faith is strong just like our army inshallah. Please dua karo and we will be prosperous soon.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan cancels 3 high-level meetings with #US since #AfghanStrategy, turns away from #Washington, looks to #China

Pakistan has called off three high-level meetings with Washington, as experts warn that President Donald Trump’s new Afghanistan policy risks driving Islamabad closer towards Beijing.

Alice Wells, acting assistant secretary of state, and Lisa Curtis, who serves on the National Security Council, were due to visit Pakistan this week as the US looks to explain its new position to the key players in the region.

But Islamabad has indefinitely postponed both meetings, as well as a planned trip to the US by its foreign minister Khawaja Asif, in response to Mr Trump’s announcement last week that he intends to keep US troops in Afghanistan and accusing Pakistan of harbouring terrorists.

On Monday morning the US state department was still saying that the Pakistan visit was part of Ms Curtis’s three-country tour of the region but later confirmed it had been cancelled.

“At the request of the government of Pakistan, that trip has been postponed until a mutually convenient time,” a state department spokesperson said.

Mr Trump had called on Pakistan to do more to tackle cross-border terrorism, saying the country had “sheltered the same organisations that try every single day to kill our people”.

Citing an erosion of trust, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson said future US support for Pakistan would be conditional on the country adopting “a different approach”.

Their comments sparked immediate anger in Islamabad. Over the weekend, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the country’s interim prime minister, said in an interview: “From day one we have been saying very clearly the military strategy in Afghanistan has not worked and it will not work.”

But analysts also warn the US policy is likely to push Pakistan closer into the embrace of China, which is investing more than $50bn in its southern neighbour as part of its “One Belt, One Road” project to create a new silk road of trade routes across the world.

They point out that instead of going to the US, Mr Asif is travelling to China, Turkey and Russia.

One senior foreign ministry official in Islamabad told the Financial Times: “In this hour of need once again, we have China standing firmly with us as president Trump threatens to bring the Afghan war to Pakistan.”

The official added: “We have put further discussions on hold and need to decide first, exactly how the [US-Pakistan] relationship can proceed productively”.

Pakistan has proved an important ally to the US since the Cold War, when it helped support the mujahideen resistance against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. 

But since then, the relationship has wavered. Washington has been torn between relying on the Islamabad government to provide a bridgehead to Afghanistan and the wider region, and criticising it for failing to tackle domestic terrorism.

In recent years, Pakistan has allowed the US to use its territory as a supply route into Afghanistan and accepted increasingly frequent drone attacks by US forces.


An official at the central bank in Karachi said, China’s role “is going to be very useful to avert a [balance of payments] crisis if there is one”.

For Beijing, the relationship offers a faster route to the sea for goods from western China, a new area of business for the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps and an ally to support it in its fractious relationship with India.

Li Guofu, head of Middle Eastern research at the China Institute of International Studies, said: “Trump's new south Asia strategy, before it's been fully implemented, has already created a feeling of threat for Pakistan and aroused a strong negative response ... China has been actively trying to help the situation, and we are very concerned.”

But while Pakistan edges closer to China, analysts say it is unlikely to cut off ties completely with the US.

Rashid A. said...

Mo D. is presenting a faithful Indian version. It is incredible that India was not so fond of Afghan aspirations when Soviets invaded Afghanistan. India was solidly lined up with the invaders.

India was alway, always, always, causing mischief in Afghanistan against Pakistan. Afghanistan was THE ONLY COUNTRY IN UN, that voted against Pakistan being a member of UN!! How delightful that would be to the ears of Vallabhai Patel!

The only constant in Afghanistan sitation is the Indian mischief. It is in India's interest to not have peace along Pakistan Afghan border, and to have a hostile to Pakistan government in Kabul!

Here's a quote of Kautilya Chanakya also known as Indian Machiavelli:

"Your neighbor is your natural enemy and your neighbor's neighbor is your friend"

It brings together India-Afghanistan (against Pakistan), India-Japan (against China).

sukhi said...

I don't see the challenge at all.

Riaz Haq said...

sukhi: "I don't see the challenge at all."

Then you must be challenged yourself in more ways than one.

But let me help you understand the gist of it.

There are two things Haqqani did in this interview:

1. Exaggerate the amount of US aid to Pakistan

2. Exaggerate US leverage with Pakistan.

Laurel Miller challenged both of these points very effectively when she said:

" Over an extended of period, the U.S. has provided substantial support the Pakistan, primarily security related, but that’s been dwindling quite considerably over past years and is expected to dwindle further. And s a consequence, it’s not really a major point of leverage with the Pakistanis anymore. The U.S. is not providing billions of dollars any longer to Pakistan.... If you calculate the amount that has been provided over a long stretch of time, it’s billions of dollars. But on an annual basis now, it’s nowhere near that. It’s well under a billion dollars a year. By contrast, the Chinese provide much, much greater levels of support to the Pakistanis. And so, it’s quite notable that the Chinese have come out today, giving a boost of support for the Pakistanis."

"But, you know, it’s not that there’s no leverage on the Pakistanis. But the Pakistanis are not going to change their perception of their own national security interests based only on American pressure. There has to be something that attracts the Pakistanis to cooperate in a positive way with the United States..... one of the key missing elements of what the president announced last night is any semblance of a political strategy for Afghanistan, a political end game in Afghanistan that could bring stability to the country and that could give the Pakistanis and other regional players an opportunity to see the potential for their own interests to be satisfied. "

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan suspends talks, visits from/to #US after #Trump's #AfghanStrategy Speech

ISLAMABAD - The Senate Committee of the Whole House in its draft recommendations on the policy guidelines regarding post-Trump Afghan policy has proposed to the government to chalk out a “verifiable mechanism” to authenticate the allegations, both from Pakistan and Afghanistan, about cross-border terrorism.

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif informed the committee on Monday that Pakistan had suspended talks and bilateral visits to the US as a protest following the tough remarks of US President Donald Trump against Pakistan while outlining his plan for Afghanistan and South Asia, sources told The Nation.

The special committee that held its in-camera meeting to finalise the draft proposals of the subcommittee, already formed by Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani for policy guidelines on the situation arising out of the US president’s plan on Afghanistan as well as his diatribe against Pakistan.

The foreign minister said that the Pakistan had taken the remarks of US president serious and added that US president’s policy on South Asia did not give any military role to India in Afghanistan. He was of the view that it was rather a role of economic development.

He said that the US thought that India’s increasing economic activities in Afghanistan would ultimately help bring economic stability in the region, the sources informed.

Asif also said that the US was not willing to accept Pakistan’s stance about India that the latter was involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan while using the soil of Afghanistan.

The lawmakers during the meeting sought the details of the Indian sponsored terrorism incidents in Pakistan - including the ones carried out by India’s serving naval officer and RAW spy Kulbushan Jhadev.

They also sought from the government a fact-sheet on US financial assistance received after 9/11, including the reimbursed amount of coalition support fund (CSF), and the financial loss incurred by the country while playing the role of a frontline state in the war on terrorism.

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua informed the committee that a three-day meeting, commencing from September 5, of Pakistan’s envoys, had been summoned to finalise a strategy over the situation.

The Whole Committee would again meet today (Wednesday) as the lawmakers made some amendments in the draft of the policy guidelines and sent it back to the sub-committee. The sub-committee would present the final draft proposals today before the Whole Committee and the same would be adopted by the Upper House tomorrow (Wednesday) along with the passage of a resolution.

The National Assembly is also set to adopt a similar resolution on Wednesday after which resolutions and input of both the houses will be placed before the National Security Council (NSC) to chalk out a policy.

Senator Mushahid Hussain, a member of the subcommittee, gave a detailed briefing to the Committee of the Whole House and suggested the government to constitute a permanent Inter-Ministerial Task Force for an immediate response to any emergency situation vis-a-vis US policy shift.

Pakistan should use the Quadrilateral Counterterrorism Coordination Mechanism (QCCM) forum to neutralise the US concerns, he said. He also advised the government to give a regional response to the United States with the help of Turkey, Russia, and China.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed also appreciated formation of the committee, which was assigned to finalise a draft in four days but the task was accomplished within few hours.

He said the parliament was working as per the aspirations of the people on all the important issues confronting the country.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said both houses of parliament should adopt their own resolutions on the issue. “There is no harm if the National Assembly adopts the Senate resolution, but they should bring their own resolution,” he said. The foreign minister endorsed the idea.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan Army Aviation Receives 4 Mi-35M Advanced Attack #Helicopters From #Russia. @Diplomat_APAC

The Pakistan Army Aviation Corps (PAAC) took delivery of four Russian-made Mi-35M attack helicopters, Pakistan’s Defense Export Promotion Organization (DEPO) confirmed in a statement issued at this year’s International Military-Technical Forum (Army 2017), which took place August 22-27 in Moscow, according to local media reports.

“The contract was signed, we received all four cars [Mi-35Ms] and now we get new equipment,” DEPOs Brigadier General Waheed Mumtaz told reporters in Moscow. PAAC are now getting acquainted with the new equipment. Based on the gunships’ performance a follow-up order for additional helicopters is under consideration, Mumtaz said. The general also noted that other Pakistani orders of Russian military equipment might take place depending on the Pakistani military’s experience with the helicopters.

Russia officially lifted an arms embargo against Pakistan, in place since the Soviet-Afghan War, in June 2014.

Pakistan and Russia agreed to the $153 million helicopter deal during then-Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif’s visit to Russia in June 2016. A preliminary contract was concluded at the Pakistan Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi in August 2015. Pakistan military sources indicate that PAAC could purchase a total of 20 Mi-35 helicopters in the coming years. “Given the cost of building the necessary Mi-35M logistics and maintenance infrastructure, expanding the fleet beyond four aircraft would financially be a sound decision for the Pakistani military,” I explained in December 2016. The Mi-25M is a formidable weapons platform, as I noted elsewhere (See: “Confirmed: Pakistan Is Buying New Attack Helicopters From Russia”):

The Mi-35M attack helicopter, the export version of the Mi-24 gunship, was developed by the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant and has been produced in Russia since 2005. Next to serving in the Russian military, the aircraft has been exported to Azerbaijan, Brazil, Iraq, and Venezuela.

The company website of Russian Helicopters notes that the Mi-35 is particularly suited for mountainous terrain and can be deployed “round the clock” in adverse weather conditions. The website notes that the helicopter offers “combat use of guided and unguided weapons in regular and challenging climate conditions” and is “operational for attack flights at altitudes of 10-25 m daytime and 50 m at night over land or water.”

The helicopter can be deployed for a host of different missions, including transporting up to eight paratroopers and carrying military supplies weighing up to 1,500 kg internally and 2,400 kg externally.

It is unknown in what configuration the helicopters were delivered. The gunship is fitted with a mounted twin-barrel GSh-23V 23 millimeter cannon, and can also carry 80 and 120 millimeter rockets, as well as anti-tank guided missiles. The Pakistan Army is specifically looking to enhance its close-air support capability for counter-insurgency operations as well as anti-tank warfare.

Nitin B said...

Only Pakistani media seems to play this abbreviated misquoted version. If you watch the entire RUSI program he is comes out putting much blame on pakistan

Riaz Haq said...

NBRX: "If you watch the entire RUSI program he is comes out putting much blame on pakistan"

You are absolutely wrong. I know because I have watched the full version.

Watch the entire 1 hour 8 minutes of it by clicking on the following link.

Anonymous said...

Has Narenda Modi Switched Sides?
by F. William Engdahl

Over the past few months, India has changed its attitude abruptly on several issues. It is as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to sabotage his rapprochement with China and Pakistan and to create artificial conflicts. For William Engdhal, this shift would be inspired by Washington and Tel Aviv.
Read the entire article here:

Riaz Haq said...

Geopolitical revolution as #Pakistan strengthens ties with #China. #CPEC #India #Trump #USA via @YouTube

A geopolitical revolution is currently underway in south Asia. With diplomatic relations between the US and Pakistan souring in recent months, Islamabad is inching closer to Beijing. Ties between the two neighbours are set to become even stronger if the multibillion-euro "China Pakistan Economic Corridor" goes ahead as planned. But who stands to benefit the most? Our correspondents in Pakistan report.

Riaz Haq said...

#Indian Journalist Karan Thapar: #Trump’s threats will mean little to #Pakistan. #AfghanStrategy via @htTweets

For a start, this won’t be the first time America has threatened to cut aid to Pakistan. In fact, there are at least two occasions in the past when it actually did but that failed to alter Islamabad’s behaviour.

American aid first picked up in the mid-1950s, after Pakistan joined US-led military alliances, touching $3 billion in 1963 and then fell to virtually zero in 1980, in the wake of American concerns about Islamabad’s nuclear weapons programme. However, Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions did not change and this was, therefore, the first time an aid cut didn’t work.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan changed everything and US aid was restored. It was virtually one billion right through the ’80s. But in the 1990s, after the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan and George Bush the elder’s refusal to certify Pakistan did not possess nuclear weapons, American aid collapsed. But, again, Pakistani behaviour was unaffected.

Once again, 9/11 altered everything. Since then Pakistan has received more than $30 billion. But are things likely to be different this time?

No and for one simple reason. America’s Afghanistan involvement reinforces US dependence on Pakistan for its supply lines. As American troop levels in Afghanistan surge Pakistan’s leverage over Washington will simultaneously grow. In these circumstances it’s hard to see Trump cut US aid.

However, for argument’s sake, let’s suppose Trump is determined to act. In that event how much will a reduction in US aid affect Pakistan? Last year remittances from Pakistani expatriate workers totalled $19.8 billion. In comparison, the well-informed Congressional Research Service estimates that US aid amounted to $1.098 billion.

No wonder Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, responded dismissively to the possibility that Trump could cut financial support. “We are not looking for any material or financial assistance from the USA,” he said. Indeed, it’s quite possible his country could carry on comfortably without it.

The same is also increasingly true of the arms and weaponry Pakistan acquires from America. No doubt the United States has supplied F16 fighter planes, P3 Orion aircraft and AH-IF Cobra helicopters but, increasingly, a preponderant proportion of Pakistani arms are Chinese made. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute believes that nearly 70% of its military supplies between 2012 and 2016 came from China. Once again, US leverage has diminished.

America, of course, has enormous kinetic power which it could unleash. Washington could directly target jihadi bases by using its drones or, even, some repeat of the strategy to take out Osama bin Laden. But this would infuriate the Pakistani army and inflame public opinion. That’s why it’s unlikely to happen while US involvement in Afghanistan is dependent upon Pakistani supply-lines.

Finally, Trump had nothing specific to say about Pakistani terror groups, like the Lashkar and Jaish, which target India. At best, they were covered generically. If he is serious about reforming this prodigal ally we should also question his silence on this front.

Shikhar UNIP said...

This sort of analysis by Indian media indicates similarly the vibrancy of Indian diplomacy and the reason why they are successful. On the other hand, Pakistan's diplomacy is a failure. Pakistan fails to understand all the intricacies in a bilateral or multilateral relationship because Pakistan only sees things from a security standpoint - but that is to be expected because a dominant military limits space for anything else.

Riaz Haq said...

Banyan: Massive #Chinese investment is a boon for #Pakistan. #CPEC #China … via @TheEconomist

Never has Pakistan been so wooed. The original promised dowry, of $46bn in Chinese grants and soft loans for infrastructure projects, has only grown, to $62bn. This munificence is dubbed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), launched amid fanfare in 2015, on a visit to Pakistan by President Xi Jinping.

Most of the money is earmarked for power plants to improve Pakistan’s notoriously unreliable electricity supply. The rest is going on roads, railways, dams, industrial zones, agricultural enterprises, warehousing, pipelines and a deepwater port in the coastal settlement of Gwadar. Some of the promised money is bound not to materialise, and the claim by the interior minister, Ahsan Iqbal, of “benchmarking” Singapore and Hong Kong when turning remote, dusty Gwadar into a container-shipping hub speaks more of hope than experience. Yet over $14bn has already been spent. CPEC is very different from earlier schemes, when co-operation was promised only to run into the sands.

For Pakistan, the scale of ambition is unprecedented—a “game- and fate-changer” as overwrought locals put it. If CPEC gets electricity and goods flowing efficiently, then growth could jump by over two percentage points a year, by one estimate. Better yet, CPEC could shift the national narrative—too often dominated by coups, extremists and a chippy kind of nationalism—towards economic construction.

What is in it for China is often misunderstood, especially by Sinophobes in Delhi, Tokyo and Washington. They make much of the “corridor” in the plan, concluding that China’s chief aim is to gain access to the Indian Ocean, the better to encircle India. In fact, argues Andrew Small of the German Marshall Fund, an American think-tank, improving transport links through the mountainous neck of land that joins Pakistan to Xinjiang province in China’s far west is one of CPEC’s lesser aims. Yes, Gwadar, as a port on the Indian Ocean, interests the Chinese navy, but would have done so regardless of CPEC. Most of CPEC’s investments are aimed at improving Pakistan’s domestic economy.

China does have strategic motives, of course. A more dynamic Pakistan would certainly act as a counterbalance to the deepening security relationship between India and America, which also provides military aid to Pakistan. Then there is Islamist militancy, which spills back into Xinjiang; development might, as Li Keqiang, China’s prime minister, put it, “wean the populace from fundamentalism”. China needs new markets for its products, as well as new terrain for infrastructure and industrial projects. Most importantly, CPEC has become the main plank of Mr Xi’s ambitious “belt-and-road” initiative, whereby improved infrastructure will help to strengthen economic ties and thus spread China’s influence through Asia and beyond. As Mr Small points out, CPEC has to be seen to work for the broader scheme to seem both credible and appealing.

Even if CPEC is not the neo-imperialist exercise its critics make it out to be, it still has its flaws. The IMF warns that Pakistan may struggle to repay China’s loans, which could in turn prompt a balance-of-payments crisis. Pakistan’s central bankers have in the past deplored a lack of transparency surrounding CPEC contracts; suspicion abounds that Pakistani taxpayers have been shortchanged. And security is a problem. Just one example is the new Chinese-funded road to Gwadar, which runs through an area long gripped by insurgency in the remote, backward province of Balochistan. Mr Iqbal argues that the road and the development it is bringing will help extinguish the conflict. It might equally pour fuel on it, if locals feel excluded.

Nitin B said...

The very next article in the same magazine is about Bangladesh overtaking Pakistan in GDP per capita in nominal terms. A first!

Riaz Haq said...

NBRX: "The very next article in the same magazine is about Bangladesh overtaking Pakistan in GDP per capita in nominal terms. A first! "

Yes, but here's what it says:

Last month revealed a remarkable turnaround. Bangladesh’s GDP per person is now higher than Pakistan’s. Converted into dollars at market exchange rates, it was $1,538 in the past fiscal year (which ended on June 30th). Pakistan’s was about $1,470.

Strange as it may sound, Bangladesh jumped ahead because of an advance in Pakistan. On August 25th Pakistan released the results of its census, updating earlier population estimates. They showed that the country has 207.8m people, more than 9m more than previously thought. It may now have the fifth biggest population in the world, surpassing Brazil’s. But the new count also lopped 4-5% off Pakistan’s GDP per person, the arithmetic consequence of revealing so many more people.

A caveat should be noted. A dollar stretches further in Pakistan than in Bangladesh because prices in the former tend to be lower. So Pakistan’s $1,470 per person actually has more purchasing power than Bangladesh’s $1,538.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan latest census 2017 says the country's population is 207.77 million, about 8.08 million or 4.04% more than the estimate of 199.71 million in Economic Survey of Pakistan 2016-16 released in June 2017.

Pakistan's per capital GDP was $1629 as of 6/30/17, according to Economic Survey of Pakistan. If you reduce it by 4.04% to account for higher population in latest census, it's still $1563 which is slightly higher than Bangladesh's $1538

Riaz Haq said...

#China, #Pakistan take swipes at #Trump's #Afghan policy. #AfghanStrategy #Afghanistan

The top diplomats from China and Pakistan took swipes at President Donald Trump's newly unveiled Afghanistan policy on Friday as they called for new talks with the Taliban to resolve the 16-year conflict.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing stood firmly behind its "ironclad friend" Pakistan, even though "some countries" did not give Islamabad the credit it deserved in fighting terrorism, a pointed reference to the U.S.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif's first trip abroad to Beijing this week appeared to highlight how ties between the two all-weather allies have grown even closer while Pakistan's critical relationship with the U.S. is disintegrating amid mutual recriminations and distrust.

Wang and Asif announced that China, Pakistan and Afghanistan will hold a new series of three-way talks later this year in China to push forward settlement negotiations with the Taliban while the U.S. doubles down on its military campaign.

Trump infuriated Pakistan last month when he accused Islamabad of providing extremists safe haven and threatened to withhold military aid. He further raised alarms in Pakistan when he raised the prospect of recruiting archrival India into the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials said this week that $225 million in military aid for Pakistan have been suspended while about 3,500 additional troops will head to Afghanistan to reverse the Taliban's battleground advances and gain leverage in negotiations.

"It's our firm view that there is no military solution in Afghanistan, the focus should be on a politically negotiated settlement," Asif told reporters in Beijing. "China is playing a very constructive role in this regard."

Pakistan has repeatedly rejected U.S. accusations that it is abetting groups like the Taliban-linked Haqqani Network, a position that China has backed.

"The government and people of Pakistan have made huge sacrifices in the fight against terror for everyone to see and the international community should recognize that," Wang said.

The two ministers presented a closely unified front just days after China handed Pakistan an unexpected diplomatic setback at the BRICS economic summit in Xiamen. On Monday, China joined several nations to declare the Pakistan-based militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad as terrorist organizations, in a move that was praised by India and the U.S.

Asif did not address the terror designation on Friday but was quoted by Pakistani media before arriving in Beijing as saying that it should not jeopardize bilateral ties. Rather, Pakistan should put its "house in order," he said.

Riaz Haq said...

US weighs dropping Pakistan as an ally

Trump administration accuses country of housing militants as relations hit new low

The Trump administration is considering dropping Pakistan as an ally as it examines tough measures to quell more than 20 terrorist groups it says are based in the country.

Officials familiar with the Pakistan prong of Washington’s new “AfPak” strategy — which involves an open-ended commitment in Afghanistan and praise for India — say it has yet to be fleshed out. But they have plenty of levers.

President Donald Trump last month promised to get tough on Pakistan, accusing it of “housing the very terrorists that we are fighting”. It was the most public breach yet in an often rocky relationship.

“No US president has come out on American national television and said such things about Pakistan,” said Husain Haqqani, former Pakistan ambassador to the US.

“US policymakers are at the end of their tethers about what they see as Pakistan not helping them while promising to help them.”

The administration has already put $255m in military aid on hold after Mr Trump announced the policy shift. It is eyeing an escalating series of threats, which include cutting some civilian aid, conducting unilateral drone strikes on Pakistani soil and imposing travel bans on suspect officers of the ISI, the country’s intelligence agency. It could also revoke Pakistan’s status as a major non-Nato ally or designate it a state sponsor of terrorism.

The latter options would limit weapons sales and probably affect billions of dollars in IMF and World Bank loans, along with access to global finance.

“Thinking of Pakistan as an ally will continue to create problems for the next administration as it did for the last one,” Lisa Curtis, former CIA analyst who now leads South Asia policy in the National Security Council, wrote in a joint report with Mr Haqqani earlier this year.

Ms Curtis, who works closely with the state department, believes the Obama administration “erred” by relying on personal ties and aid packages to try to change Pakistan’s behaviour.


Relations are expected to take a further blow from US efforts to forge closer ties with rival India. “We need to respect and trust India — they have not leaked nuclear secrets or shared sensitive nuclear technology with rogue countries,” said Tim Roemer, former US ambassador to India, a reference to Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation.

Pakistan prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said this week it is “unfair” to blame his country for troubles in Afghanistan, adding that the US should have greater respect for its efforts to combat militancy.

Ryan Crocker, former US ambassador to Pakistan in the wake of 9/11, says Pakistan resents the wild oscillations in support from the US.

“They went from our most allied of allies to our most sanctioned of sanctioned,” he said, recalling that the US worked with Pakistan to defeat Soviet Russia during the 1980s Afghanistan invasion but, once it had won, cut aid and imposed sanctions over its emergent nuclear programme.

“Their narrative about us is here today, gone tomorrow and it has deeply affected their strategic thinking.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan draws new battle lines in the #Afghan war. #India #Trump #Taliban #Afghanistan

If India increases its involvement in Afghanistan, Pakistan will strengthen its opposition to pushing the Taliban into negotiations.

Pakistan will continue supporting the Taliban to prevent an alliance between Afghanistan and India.

Islamabad and Washington's threats against one another will limit the punitive measures both sides impose.

...Pakistani militancy is as much a problem for Islamabad as it is for Washington. Pakistan has been working to circumscribe the militant groups operating within its borders since long before Trump rebuked the country in an address Aug. 21. In April 2016, for example, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency proposed plans to deradicalize scores of militants and bring them more under the control of the country's security apparatus. As part of that campaign, Islamabad allowed the Jamaat-ud-Dawa — a charity organization under U.N. sanctions for its links to the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba — to form a new political party, the Milli Muslim League (MML).

Combating militancy with politics is easier said than done, though. The process has been rife with controversy, exposing the historical divide between Pakistan's military and civilian leaders. Pakistan's Interior Ministry asked the country's electoral commission to block the MML's registration over concerns that the party's ties to and ideological affinities with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group blamed for the deadly attacks in Mumbai in 2008, would invite criticism from foreign governments. But though the MML's registration is still pending, it hasn't let administrative matters get in its way. The party's candidate, officially running as an independent, placed third in the recent special elections in Lahore, and the MML plans to participate in Pakistan's general elections next year as well.

The MML's emergence demonstrates the Pakistani army's commitment to addressing militancy in the country. Its priorities in this endeavor differ from those of the United States, however, and as it tackles the problem, Islamabad will continue to resist pressure to attack the militant groups Washington has targeted. In Pakistan's view, after all, all militant groups are not created equal. Groups such as the Afghan Taliban and its ally the Haqqani network help Pakistan's army advance its objectives in Afghanistan. They are assets to Islamabad's foreign policy, and the Pakistani government treats them as such. Islamabad's accommodations, moreover, discourage these groups from attacking Pakistan, enabling the country to focus its scarce resources on the organizations that pose a more serious threat to its security, including the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and the Islamic State's Khorasan chapter.

In fact, Pakistan already has started employing some of these deterrents since Trump made his address on Afghanistan in late August. Islamabad turned down a visit from the U.S. acting assistant secretary of state for Central and South Asia, who was leading a delegation of officials eager to hash out U.S.-Pakistan coordination in Afghanistan. Pakistan's foreign minister instead embarked on a three-nation tour to China, Turkey and Iran in hopes of increasing their diplomatic support for his country. He later delayed a meeting originally scheduled for August with his U.S. counterpart, Rex Tillerson, until the week of Oct. 2. More recently, Pakistan announced that it would adopt stricter protocols on U.S. diplomats to require a mutual agreement before American officials could visit the country and to prohibit lower-ranking U.S. functionaries from meeting with high-level Pakistani officials, such as the prime minister. The country also has floated the possibility of shutting down NATO supply routes, though it probably won't follow through on the threat unless Washington first makes good on one of its own.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan says it needs no financial assistance from #US. #USAID #Trump #Afghanistan

Pakistan’s Foreign Office said on Saturday that the country needs no financial assistance from the US, which it accuses of ignoring Pakistan’s effective operations in the war on terror.
“We do not need any financial assistance from the United States. We do not care about it. If America wants to stop it, we will loudly say go ahead,” Dr. Mohammad Faisal, spokesperson for Pakistan’s Foreign Office, told Arab News in an interview.
“Pakistan receives a paltry amount in terms of Coalition Support Fund from the US, and if the Trump administration withholds it, it will hardly make any difference to a country of 207 million people,” he said.
The Coalition Support Fund is a reimbursement to Pakistan from the US of expenses incurred in operations against militants and compensation for logistical facilities made available to the coalition forces operating in Afghanistan.
As relations between the US and Pakistan have soured in recent months, the Trump administration, according to a New York Times report, is contemplating withholding $255 million in aid to Pakistan as “a show of dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s broader intransigence toward confronting the terrorist networks that operate there.”
“We will insist that Pakistan take decisive action against militant and terrorist groups operating from its soil,” the US said in its National Security Strategy announced by President Donald Trump on Dec. 18.
“The United States continues to face threats from transnational terrorists and militants operating from within Pakistan,” it said. “We will press Pakistan to intensify its counterterrorism efforts, since no partnership can survive a country’s support for militants and terrorists who target a partner’s own service members and officials.”
Dr. Mohammad Faisal, however, vehemently rejects the US allegations, saying that Pakistan’s security forces have undertaken indiscriminate and effective operations against terrorism and extremism in recent years.
“Pakistan is a more stable, peaceful and secure country after these operations,” he said. “We have repeatedly informed the US that no organized structure of any terrorist outfit exists in Pakistan.”
He advised the US to focus on factors responsible for exponential increase in drug production, expansion of ungoverned spaces, breakdown of governance and letting Daesh gain a foothold in Afghanistan instead of pressuring Pakistan to do more.
“We remain committed to protect our sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interest determined by the people of Pakistan,” he said.
Relations between Pakistan and the US soured after President Donald Trump accused the country of providing a “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror” while launching the US strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia on Aug. 21.
Air Marshal (retd) Shahid Latif told Arab News that the US has been blaming Pakistan for its failure in the war against terror in Afghanistan and is threatening Pakistan with dire consequences — action that is unbecoming of an ally such as the US.
“We will do no more to support the United States in our region,” he said while fully endorsing Pakistan’s attitude toward the US.
“The Trump administration has been threatening Pakistan instead of acknowledging our tremendous sacrifices in the war against terror and this is totally unacceptable to us,” he said.
Ayaz Wazir, a former diplomat, told Arab News that Pakistan is a sovereign country and the Trump administration cannot cow it down through threats of unilateral actions against militants and stopping of financial aid.
“The US has totally failed in restoring law and order in Afghanistan and it wants to make Pakistan a scapegoat by accusing it of harboring militants on its soil,” he said. “Around 22 terrorist outfits including Daesh are still active in Afghanistan despite the presence of the US troops since 2001.”

Riaz Haq said...

Ex US VP Joe Biden: “#Pakistan is fifty times more important than #Afghanistan for the #UnitedStates.” #Trump #India #China

The discussion was already tense as Karzai urged Washington to help root out Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan, implying that more pressure needed to be exerted on Pakistani leaders. Biden’s answer stunned Karzai into silence. Biden let Karzai know how Barack Obama’s incoming administration saw its priorities. “Mr. President,” Biden said, “Pakistan is fifty times more important than Afghanistan for the United States.”

It was an undiplomatic moment for sure, but also a frank expression of the devastating paradox at the heart of the longest war in American history. In 16 years, the United States has spent billions of dollars fighting a war that has killed thousands of soldiers and an untold number of civilians in a country that Washington considers insignificant to its strategic interests in the region. Meanwhile, the country it has viewed as a linchpin, Pakistan—a nuclear-armed cauldron of volatile politics and long America’s closest military ally in South Asia—has pursued a covert campaign in Afghanistan designed to ensure that the money and the lives have been spent in vain. The stakes in Pakistan have been considered too high to break ties with Islamabad or take other steps that would risk destabilizing the country. The stakes in Afghanistan have been deemed low enough that careening from one failed strategy to another has been acceptable.


Coll’s majestic Ghost Wars tracked the CIA’s adventures in Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion, in 1979, through the eve of the September 11 attacks. Reading it was a gut-wrenching experience, with momentum building toward a climactic, dreadful outcome. Reading Directorate S is more like watching a slow-motion video of a truck going off a cliff, frame by agonizing frame. And no semblance of closure ever comes. Coll may have embarked on a full accounting of the war to its end, but history didn’t cooperate. Obama announced a plan in 2014 to conclude America’s combat operations in Afghanistan. By the time his tenure in the White House wound down, the generals had persuaded him to leave thousands of troops in the country indefinitely.

Within months of taking office, his successor—who had campaigned on scaling back America’s overseas adventures—accepted a Pentagon plan to add thousands more U.S. troops. In a speech announcing his strategy, Donald Trump ran through a familiar litany of complaints about Pakistan, capped by the demand that the country end its support for the very groups America is fighting in Afghanistan. He also called on India, Pakistan’s archenemy, to take a greater role in Afghanistan’s internal affairs—a threat evidently intended to scare Pakistani officials into backing off. Frustration mounted as the year turned, and an outraged presidential tweet denouncing years of “nothing but lies & deceit” was followed by a suspension of security assistance to Pakistan. What the repercussions might be was anybody’s guess.

Coll sums up the war as a “humbling case study in the limits of American power.” But a decade and a half after the first shots were fired, the U.S. president wasn’t exactly projecting humility, much less a newly coherent American policy.

Riaz Haq said...

After 16 Years, Afghanistan War Is 'At Best A Grinding Stalemate,' Journalist Says

by Terry Gross

"Most of the generals ... say in public, 'There's no military solution to this war,'" Coll says. "This is at best a grinding stalemate. And yet, we prioritize military action at the expense of diplomacy, at the expense of negotiating."

On the current state of the war in Afghanistan

We're in a stalemate. We're in a muddle. We have something like 10,000 troops there, maybe growing a little higher over the next year or so.

There are actually two wars that we're fighting in Afghanistan, I'm not sure most Americans appreciate that. One is a direct combat war against remnants or elements of the Islamic State that have popped up in eastern Afghanistan. There President Obama initiated, and President Trump continued, a return to direct combat in Afghanistan, after previously, at the end of 2014, saying we were done with the war.

The second war is the one that we transitioned to in 2014, which is to advise and assist the Afghan security forces — the Afghan army and police — in their combat against the Taliban, an indigenous Afghan movement that we're all too familiar with after all these years, which controls significant swaths of the Afghan countryside.

So our muddled war policy is that we're directly at war with the Islamic State, but we're not directly at war with the Taliban, except to the extent that we're supporting Afghan forces. But what that means as a practical matter is that we're their air force; we have the planes. So when the Afghan forces need bombs dropped on Taliban positions, that's generally us doing the bombing. The number of bombs that we've been dropping on Afghanistan has increased significantly in 2017 over the year before.

On why Pakistan supports the Taliban

Pakistan's generals seemed to conclude ... that Afghanistan was going to become an ally of India with international backing [and] that they needed to encourage the Taliban support. ...


What's happened, where we are now, is that there are 25,000, 30,000 Afghan Taliban guerrilla soldiers fighting the war, going in and out of Pakistan, but fighting the war on Afghan ground. Those units include these suicide bomber, truck bomber units that occasionally kill scores of innocent civilians in Kabul, as we've seen over the last couple of weeks, a couple of horrific attacks.

And then inside Pakistan, the effort by the Pakistani Taliban to overthrow their government has really faltered. The Pakistani state has restored security over the last couple of years to a significant degree. Not entirely — I think 500 civilians died in terrorist attacks in Pakistan last year — but [that's] compared to many thousands a few years ago, when the country looked like it might collapse.

Riaz Haq said...

Senator Lindsey Graham: #Trump should meet #Pakistan's leader #PMImranKhan to reset relations. #Afghanistan

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) during a visit to Islamabad said that he believes President Trump should meet with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in order to reset relations, the latest signal that the relationship between the two countries could be warming.

“I’ve seen things change here and all in a positive direction,” Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said during a news conference, according to Reuters. Khan was elected prime minister of Pakistan over the summer.

“With Prime Minister Khan, we have a unique opportunity to change our relationship,” he said. Graham called for "strategic engagement" between Washington and Islamabad, which could include a free trade agreement, Reuters reported.

Khan has offered support for a peace agreement in Afghanistan, which Graham said could leave Trump feeling “far more enthusiastic about the region than he is today."

Graham said Trump should meet with the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan to discuss a peace agreement.

Graham expressed appreciation for Khan's work supporting a political settlement in Afghanistan.

Trump has multiple times expressed interest in pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, following his surprise decision to remove the thousands of U.S. troops from Syria.

Graham, one of Trump's most outspoken allies in the Senate, told Reuters that Trump would not ask the U.S. to leave if it meant the Taliban would take over Afghanistan.

“The world’s not going to let the Taliban take Afghanistan over by force of arms," Graham said. "That would be unconscionable. “Any president who let that happen would go down in history very poorly.”

While Graham often offers support for Trump's controversial decisions, he has broken with the president multiple times over foreign policy issues, including U.S. ties with Saudi Arabia and the U.S. troop drawdown in Syria.
Graham earlier this week met with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to discuss U.S. plans to leave Syria.