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.

Summary:

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:

https://youtu.be/HRG45PAHpWw




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

9 comments:

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.

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1489586/dealing-trump-pakistan-plays-trump-card/

Syed S.S. said...

Riaz:
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

http://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/afghanistan-pakistan-and-the-f-16-mattis-has-to-hardsell-these-issues-on-his-visit-to-india/story-qvL9NS6wgl17sy756hE2WN_amp.html

"...as 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

http://dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/24-Sep-17/masters-not-friends

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!

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-us-should-go-for-pre-emptive-strikes-destroy-paks-n-assets-ex-us-senator/articleshow/60834852.cms

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.

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/article/2176874 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.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan forging regional alliance with #Russia, #Iran against 'foreign presence' in #Afghanistan: ex-#ISI chief

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1544437/1-pakistan-aiming-regional-alliance-foreign-presence-afghan-former-isi-chief/

Pakistan has held successful negotiations with at least four countries and a new regional alliance against the foreign presence in Afghanistan is fast emerging, a former chief of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has claimed.

“Now this is the regional alliance that is emerging, not in the sense of an alliance, but at least they have started handling the foreign presence in Afghanistan in a coordinated manner,” Lt-Gen (retd) Asad Durrani, Pakistan’s ex-spymaster, told Russia Today’s Sophie Shevarnadze in an interview.

“In the meantime actually what we have done… is that [we have] found allies in the region starting with Iran, Russia, China and now lately Turkey,” he added.

Durrani said Pakistan does not care about the US sanctions anymore because it hardly gets any aid from the latter. “Sanctions are alright… Already there’s hardly anything we get from the US… Dependence on America — that finished long time ago,” he said, adding that Islamabad was rather looking for countries which would offer cooperation in economic development in the region “to ensure that this foreign presence from Afghanistan is vacated.”

Responding to a question over new US strategy on Afghanistan, the former intelligence chief denied there was a change in the American policy towards the war-torn nation, saying peace in Afghanistan was in the interest of the United States.


“The policy still continues to be run by, to use a Russian nomenklatura, the deep state in the US runs the policy. Obama used to speak softly and his representatives used to come and threaten us — Hillary Clinton and others, the generals. In this particular case, the roles are simply reversed, because Trump is not in the habit of talking softly, so they said ‘you can go ahead, see what you do, tweet whatever you like to, but we run the policy’,” he said, adding the job of the US president was to only shout at some countries.

Durrani said the US wanted to keep a military presence in Afghanistan at all costs. “Essentially, the policy remains the same, and that is — you have dig in Afghanistan, stay there, keep the bases, keep the military presence, that’s more important than either peace there or settlement there or whatever else.”

He went on to say that Pakistan pushed the Taliban leadership towards joining the Afghan peace process but the negotiation process was sabotaged either by the Kabul regime or the US itself.

Riaz Haq said...

#Taliban commander in #Afghanistan: “Taliban want to leave #Pakistan for #Iran. They don’t trust Pakistan anymore.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/31/150000-americans-couldnt-beat-us-taliban-fighters-defiant-in-afghanistan

'150,000 Americans couldn’t beat us': Taliban fighters defiant in Afghanistan

Squatting on the floor, a brown shawl draped over his shoulders, the Taliban commander and his bodyguard swiped on their phones through attack footage edited to look like video games, with computerised crosshairs hovering over targets. “Allahu Akbar,” they said every time a government Humvee hit a landmine.

Mullah Abdul Saeed, who met the Guardian in the barren backcountry of Logar province where he leads 150 Taliban militants, has fought foreign soldiers and their Afghan allies since the US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan when he was 14. The Taliban now controls its largest territory since being forced from power, and seems to have no shortage of recruits.

By prolonging and expanding its military presence in Afghanistan, the US aims to coerce the Taliban to lay down arms, but risks hardening insurgents who have always demanded withdrawal of foreign troops before peace talks.

In interviews with rank-and-file Taliban fighters in Logar and another of Afghanistan’s embattled provinces, Wardak, the Guardian found a fragmented but resilient movement, united in resistance against foreign intervention.

Referring to Barack Obama’s surge, Saeed said: “150,000 Americans couldn’t beat us.” And an extra 4,000 US soldiers, as Donald Trump will deploy, “will not change the morale of our mujahideen,” he said. “The Americans were walking in our villages, and we pushed them out.” For the Taliban to consider peace, he said, “foreigners must leave, and the constitution must be changed to sharia.”


The war America can't win: how the Taliban are regaining control in Afghanistan

Arriving on a motorbike kicking up dust, Saeed and his Kalashnikov-carrying bodyguard, Yamin, were aloof at first but warmed as the conversation evolved. Saeed said that as the war has changed, the Taliban have adjusted, too. US soldiers now predominantly train Afghans, and have ramped up airstrikes.

“It’s true, it has become harder to fight the Americans. But we use suicide bombers, and we will use more of them,” Saeed said. “If the US changes its tactics of fighting, so do we.” That change has meant ever-fiercer attacks, with large truck bombs in populated areas and audacious assaults on military bases.

In April, Taliban fighters in army uniforms stormed a northern army academy and killed at least 150 soldiers in the biggest assault on the army of the entire war. This month, suicide bombers wiped out a whole army unit, ramming two Humvees packed with explosives into a base in Kandahar.

As Saeed spoke, three young boys from the civilian family at the house where the interview took place brought tea. They giggled as they listened in on the fighters’ radio. Saeed spoke with a calm, professorial demeanour but his words brimmed with the anger of a man who has spent his adult life fighting a generation-long war, and lost 12 family members doing it.

Pressed on the record-high number of civilian deaths in the war, he said the Taliban “make mistakes” and try to avoid harming civilians, but added: “If there is an infidel in a flock of sheep, you are permitted to attack that flock of sheep.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan: Mad Dog #Mattis Will Bark, but #Islamabad Won't Bite. #Afghanistan #Trump #terrorism #TTP https://goo.gl/ZU1FK1 via @Stratfor Worldview

As President Donald Trump's administration searches for an exit from the war in Afghanistan after over 16 years of U.S. involvement, the United States is making another high-level diplomatic outreach to Pakistan. On Dec. 4, Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived in Islamabad for meetings with Pakistan's top military and civilian leaders, including Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. In these meetings, Mattis' mission is to convince Pakistani leadership to do more to attack militant safe havens and, in the long term, facilitate peace talks with the Taliban to end America's longest-running war. But Pakistan's leaders won't be easy to convince.

In the discussions, Mattis adopted a conciliatory approach by acknowledging Pakistan's sacrifices in the fight against terrorism, but he also reiterated Washington's demands. The United States has called for Pakistan to take more action against the militants that find refuge on its soil. Among them, crucially, is the leadership of the Taliban operating in Afghanistan.

Diplomatic outreach is just one of the ways the United States is trying to compel a change in Pakistan's behavior. Military aid is another. Last week, the latest report from the U.S. Congressional Research Service showed that the United States would further trim its annual aid package to Pakistan. In 2017, Washington doled out $526 million to Islamabad in exchange for its cooperation, which includes providing overland NATO supply route access through Pakistani territory. In 2018, that number is projected to drop to $345 million.

The United States has gradually trimmed the amount of aid it provides to Pakistan over the last several years. In 2014, for example, U.S. aid to Pakistan amounted to nearly $2.2 billion. For now, it appears that the U.S. strategy is to pursue incremental punitive measures against Pakistan, rather than pursue harsher tactics such as revoking Pakistan's non-NATO major ally status or cutting aid altogether. The United States isn't fully ready to bring out the stick, but the carrot is slowly being drawn back.

Pakistan wants to maintain its relationship with the United States, but it's willing to suffer the cost of deteriorating ties. From Islamabad's perspective, supporting the Taliban follows a rational calculation to ensure post-conflict Afghanistan is friendly to Pakistani interests. Support for Taliban leaders is aimed at denying Pakistan's rival, India, a foothold in Afghanistan. Because of this, Mattis' visit probably won't convince Pakistan to change its behavior, especially considering the Trump administration's calls for India to play a greater economic role in Afghanistan.