Dismantling the Terror Infrastructure
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.