Thursday, September 21, 2017

Does Pakistan Hold Any Cards in Dealing With Trump Administration?

The U.S. relationship with Pakistan has always been essentially transactional since the early days of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. What would the quid pro quo look like between Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the Trump administration in the current differences over America's new Afghan policy? Let's try and answer this question.

Transactional History: 

Aid and cooperation has been forthcoming whenever successive American administrations needed something from Pakistan and then suddenly stopped and sanctions imposed on Pakistan when the US goals were accomplished. This happened in 1960s, 1990s and likely to happen yet again now under the Trump administration.

The history of the relationship is such that Pakistan has often been described variously as "the most allied ally" and "the most sanctioned ally" in the last few decades.

Trump's Tough Talk:

U.S. President Donald Trump, a real estate developer, sees all bilateral and multilateral negotiations with other nations through the lens of his experience in real estate deals. The Trump administration has shown itself to be far more transactional with US allies than any previous administration. President Trump is now threatening to get tough with Pakistan after 16 years of Afghan war with no end in sight as the Taliban continue to expand influence in the country. There's talk in Washington about cutting off aid and possible sanctions on Pakistan yet again. What cards does Pakistan hold in any negotiations with the Trump administration? Can Pakistan play hardball with the United States?

Pakistan's Cards:

Speaking at an event organized by the Council of Foreign Relations in New York, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the following:

"... the (US) military assistance (to Pakistan) is very limited at the moment. In the past, if you want to do an accounting of the past, that can also be done. But I’m telling you that today, for example, over a million (US) sorties are flown by coalition aircraft through Pakistan territory, and we never bill for that. Millions of tons of (US) equipment moves through Pakistan territory on the ground. We never bill for that, because we believe in the war against terror. We supported that coalition, we continue to support efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan. So if we want to go back into history and start accounting for how many dollars were spent, Pakistan, as I said, post-9/11, the most conservative numbers: We lost $120 billion in economic growth."

US-Pakistan Negotiations:

If the Trump administration decides to cut whatever little aid Pakistan receives from the United States, Pakistan could demand significant fees for the use of Pakistani territory by the United States to supply its troops. If the US refuses, Pakistan could simply cut off the NATO supply route as it did back in 2011 after the Salala incident.


Given the transactional nature of the relationships the Trump administration seeks, what would a transaction look like between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi? It could be in the form of Pakistan continuing to allow the use of its airspace and land routes to supply US troops in Afghanistan for substantial fees that could add up to more than the US aid to Pakistan today. If the US balks at it, Pakistan could simply cut off US supply routes as it did back in 2011 after the Salala incident.

Here's a discussion related to this subject:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

What is the Haqqani Network?

Why is India Sponsoring Terror in Pakistan?

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


Moh said...

In dealing with Trump, Pakistan plays its trump card

Pakistan is learnt to have conveyed to the United States that it will call off its efforts in the Afghan reconciliation process if the Trump administration does not change its new policy of intimidation and coercion towards Islamabad.

Syed S.S. said...

The Americans have one trump card against Pakistan and that is corrupt leaders at he helms in Pakistan. They can dangle a green card to the man in charge and get anything they want from Pakistan.
There is so much ill-gotten Pakistani politicians money stashed in the USA, they dare not stand up to the demands from Trump.

Riaz Haq said...

#Mattis tells #India to moderate its support of #TTP #terrorism in #Pakistan. #Afghanistan #talibans #RAW

by Bharat Karnad in Hindustan Times

" a former head of the US Central Command Mattis appreciates Pakistan’s indispensability as base for military operations to bring the Taliban in Afghanistan to their knees. But Islamabad has insisted that India’s role in Afghanistan be restricted and complained about the Indian support for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) accused by Islamabad of terrorism in Pakistan. The RAW-TTP link was publicly revealed in April this year by its former commander, Ehsanullah Ehsan.

Mattis’ request that India moderate its support for TTP will put Delhi in a fix because TTP is useful as an Indian counterpart of the Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba, and Jaish-e-Mohammad deployed by the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Jammu & Kashmir. Severing relations with TTP will mean India surrendering an active card in Pakistan and a role in Afghanistan as TTP additionally provides access to certain Afghan Taliban factions. This, together with the Abdul Ghani regime’s desire for India’s presence and the tested friendship with Abdul Rashid Dostum and his Tajik-dominated ‘Northern Alliance’, ensures that no solution for peace in Afghanistan can be cobbled together without India’s help.

Mattis’ returning home empty-handed will not hurt relations with the US at all because there’s China; and the US needs India to strategically hinder it."

Riaz Haq said...

Masters not friends
Expectations of Pakistani cooperation are disproportionate to the US commitment to Islamabad, even considering Washington’s generous aid budget
24-Sep-17 by Adam Weinstein

The relationship between the US and Pakistan is one of necessity rather than a common vision. It alternates between cooperation and hostility, occasionally teetering on the abyss of formally severed ties. Western observers of Pakistan have exhaustively and convincingly written about the dysfunction that Islamabad brings to the partnership and our latest squabble has solicited another dispatch of such articles. But what blame, if any, falls on Washington?

For decades Washington has misunderstood Pakistan’s political scene, miscalculated the nature of its security concerns, and all but ignored the complexities of its society. Expectations of Pakistani cooperation are disproportionate to US commitment to Islamabad, even considering Washington’s generous aid. Fears of an unlikely Islamist ascendancy followed by a loss of nuclear warheads garners too much concern while facilitating viable solutions for the Kashmir dispute are dismissed as impossible or irrelevant. And, Washington and Kabul’s own failings in Afghanistan have too often been pinned entirely on Pakistan even though the reality is much more complex.

During Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s administration, the US had the opportunity to assure Pakistan of future military aid but chose instead to adopt a risk-averse South Asia policy that would not upset India — the ally Washington wanted but could not have
Rather than forming a durable alliance with Pakistan, the US has consistently gauged assistance based on regional events.

Washington’s limited ability to dictate Islamabad’s foreign policy is the price of its unwillingness to commit to a monopoly over Pakistan’s security during the first quarter century of its statehood. Viewed exclusively as a bulwark against the Soviet Union, the US lacked the foresight to realise the permanent importance of Pakistan given its strategic location at the nexus of Iran, Afghanistan, India, and China. Over the years, Islamabad has periodically expressed its displeasure with Washington through publicised pivots toward Beijing, usually accompanied by major Chinese investment. For example, when relations cooled in the mid-1960s it led to closer economic ties with Beijing as illustrated by the construction of the Karakoram highway. This is again happening with CPEC, and Daniel Markey, a State Department veteran and Pakistan specialist recently wrote that “looking ahead, the United States will need to take China’s role and interests into account in ways that were unnecessary even just a decade ago.”


The question now is whether it is 2011 again? This was the year when Osama bin Laden was killed near Pakistan’s prestigious military academy and US aircraft killed twenty four Pakistani soldiers after allegedly firing from positions within Pakistan. Could Pakistan’s continued support for the Haqqani network combined with Washington’s unfair finger-pointing spark another incident like this? Possibly — but unlike 2011, the US administration does not have the diplomatic finesse to de-escalate the situation, and Pakistan is entering an election season where populism and standing up to Washington may win at the ballot box. Pakistan and the US do not have an indefinite number of resets available. Nobody within Pakistan’s political scene has offered a serious and practical alternative to the US. Meanwhile, Washington risks a war in Afghanistan where every restive province either borders Iran or an alienated Pakistan. Now more than ever diplomatic engagement is needed between the two nations and cool heads must prevail.

Riaz Haq said...

US Senator Larry Pressler whose infamous Pressler Amendment forced Pakistan to diversify arms sources and seek self-reliance in arms production is BACK!

Suggesting that both India and the US conduct pre-emptive strikes inside Pakistan to destroy its nuclear sites (where weapons have either already been stored or are being made), former US Senator Larry Pressler told TOI on Monday that Donald Trump may turn out to be the best American president yet for India as he had recently put Pakistan on notice for harbouring terrorists.

But for this to happen, Trump would have to get around the Pentagon, which always encouraged Pakistan, he said. Such encouragement emboldened Pakistan to attack India as "the mother of terrorism" and "predator" at the UN general assembly session on Sunday, he added. Trump's description of the Pentagon as "a swamp" was a good sign, he noted, hoping the US president would drain it soon (as he'd promised).

A three-term Senator and twice a member of the House of Representatives, Pressler (75) authored the famous Pressler Amendment which in 1990 blocked US military aid to Pakistan when the then US President George H W Bush could not certify Pakistan was not developing nukes.

As the delivery of close to 30 F-16 aircraft to Islamabad was barred, Pressler, then a Republican and head of the Senate's arms control subcommittee, became something of a hero in India and, in his own words, "a devil in Pakistan." His new book, Neighbours in Arms, engagingly tells the story of the amendment and of the US foreign policy that enabled Pakistan to develop nuclear weapons and casts a severe spotlight on the culture of lobbying in Washington and the grip of the military-industrial state ("the Octopus") inside the US.

Pressler has long distanced himself from the Republican Party — he contested Senate polls as an Independent in 2014 and backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential polls — but despite differences with Trump, he feels the president is not doing half as badly as US media suggests.

Trump's warning to Pakistan on its sheltering and export of terror, linking of US aid to "action on terror" and his request to India to "help us more with Afghanistan" signalled a recasting of relations.
The ex-Senator hopes Trump will act on the notice.

"US must declare Pakistan a terrorist state, cut off all aid and must not treat India and Pakistan as equals. India is a democracy, Pakistan isn't. And Pakistan and especially the ISI have lied to us for decades," he said.

Riaz Haq said...

US Def Sec Mattis accuses #Russia and #Iran of supplying arms to the #Taliban in #Afghanistan. via @dcexaminer

During Mattis’ Afghanistan visit, he faulted Russia and Iran for supplying arms to the Taliban. “Those two countries have suffered losses to terrorism, so I think it would be extremely unwise if they think they can somehow support terrorism in another country and not have it come back to haunt them,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal. Russia has denied sending weapons to the group.