Dis­man­tling the Ter­ror In­fra­struc­ture

Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - Commentary -

A be­trayal that grew in mag­ni­tude with the pas­sage of time and cost the US ex­che­quer 33 bil­lion dol­lars over the last 15 years, Pak­istan has been un­usu­ally suc­cess­ful in hood­wink­ing the most pow­er­ful coun­try in the world. Since for­mer US Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush Jr de­clared war on ter­ror fol­low­ing 9/11, Is­lam­abad had been a lackey in US’s many mis­ad­ven­tures in Afghanistan. It had pulled off the ‘run­ning with the hare and hunt­ing with the hounds’ act right un­der the nose of US in­tel­li­gence.

Now Don­ald Trump threat­en­ing to cut aid to a “ter­ror haven”, which had given the US “noth­ing but lies and de­ceit” is a wel­come move, though a tad too late in the day. But Trump should be cred­ited for call­ing a spade a spade. Though Bush and his suc­ces­sor Barack Obama had been In­dia’s friends, nei­ther had the gump­tion to call Pak­istan’s bluff, when both knew that the ISI and the Pak­istan Army were hand-in-glove with ji­hadis. In re­al­is­tic terms, the for­mer Pres­i­dents had in­creas­ingly en­gaged with In­dia but fell woefully short of rein­ing in Pak­istan’s dis­rup­tive tac­tics. In July, last year, it was the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion that re­fused to give $350 mil­lion in coali­tion sup­port fund to Pak­istan when it re­alised that Is­lam­abad had not taken “suf­fi­cient ac­tions” against the dreaded Haqqani ter­ror net­work. By then, Is­lam­abad was al­ready in Bei­jing’s arms and neck-deep in grat­i­tude for China’s multi-bil­lion-dol­lar in­vest­ments in the coun­try, in­clud­ing the Belt and Road (BRI) ini­tia­tive.

The war on ter­ror, like many of US’s dis­as­trous policies, had de­fied com­mon sense in the way it chose to con­tain/oblit­er­ate its en­e­mies. When ground re­ports in­creas­ingly pointed out the Pak­istan Army’s dal­liance with the Tal­iban across the Afghanistan bor­der, the US showed ob­du­racy to­wards a course-cor­rec­tion. In re­cent times, bar­ring Trump, the US had al­most given a free hand to Pak­istan in ne­go­ti­at­ing deals with the Tal­iban as part of the peace process and re­con­struc­tion of the war-rav­aged Afghanistan. It was Pak­istan’s ploy to con­tain In­dia’s grow­ing in­flu­ence in Afghanistan, where New Delhi’s sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions in terms of aid have been uni­ver­sally ac­knowl­edged.

Pak­istan now draws power from a dif­fer­ent source. It has ex­ploited the US to the hilt and has moved on to seek greater gains, if at all, by strength­en­ing ties with Bei­jing. Its lat­est ac­tions against Hafiz Saeed – by ban­ning his two or­gan­i­sa­tions, Ja­maat-ud Dawa and Falah-i-In­sa­niat Foun­da­tion, from col­lect­ing do­na­tions – are as hol­low as its crack­down on Is­lamic mil­i­tants. It’s akin to throw­ing scraps at a bene­fac­tor who could be drawn back into the fold with false as­sur­ances. If Trump wants to ex­pe­dite the Afghanistan peace process, it should fo­cus on dis­man­tling the ter­ror in­fra­struc­ture in Pak­istan. Is­lam­abad and the Pak­istani Army have cre­ated a Franken­stein’s mon­ster, which has grown too big and pow­er­ful for its han­dlers. The US should now wield the stick of sanc­tions since car­rots worth 33 bil­lion dol­lars can’t be re­trieved. Trump has to stay the course and in­creas­ingly mount pres­sure. It re­mains to be seen how Bei­jing plays the game to shield a friend.

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