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

Comments

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…
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…
#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…
Ex #Indian diplomat: #Trump's U-Turn on #Pakistan is moment of truth for #India. Trump’s #invitation to #ImranKhan is beyond gratitude for Pakistan’s cooperation in making peace with #Taliban. Pakistani goal of ‘strategic depth’ vis-a-vis India is intact. https://indianpunchline.com/trumps-volte-face-on-pakistan-is-a-moment-of-truth-for-india/


Pakistan is hugely experienced in handling its relations with the US and it will of course make sure that the US reciprocates — politically, financially, militarily.

If Trump had praised India as the ‘critical part’ of his unfolding Afghan strategy in August 2017, he is now replacing India with Pakistan in a most curious reversal of roles in South Asia’s regional security paradigm. The White House announcement says explicitly that Imran Khan’s visit will ‘focus on strengthening cooperation between the United States and Pakistan to bring peace, stability, and economic prosperity to a region that has seen far too much conflict.’

It goes on to say that the US is meeting Pakistan’s longstanding demand for a wide-ranging, full-bodied relationship on par with US-Indian relations, ‘including counterterrorism, defense, energy, and trade.’ More importantly, in what can only be regarded as a veiled reference to the Kashmir issue and India-Pakistan tensions, the White House says that the US will keep in sight ‘the goal of creating the conditions for a peaceful South Asia and an enduring partnership between our two countries.’

To be sure, Washington has marginalised India and ignored its sensitivities regarding the Afghan situation by choreographing the post-war scenario in Afghanistan almost exclusively with Pakistan (and China.) And, yet, India-US relationship was supposed to be one between ‘natural allies’ and was described until fairly recently as the ‘defining partnership’ of the 21st century.

From the Indian perspective, therefore, Trump’s invitation to Imran Khan to visit the White House is a bitter pill to swallow. At best, it can put a brave face on the colossal setback to its regional policies during the past five years, which stubbornly refused to engage Pakistan in dialogue, strove to ‘isolate’ Pakistan as a state sponsoring terrorism, regarded Afghanistan primarily as a proxy war with Pakistan, refused to regard Taliban as an Afghan entity and fantasised an Indian-American convergence over regional security in regard of Afghanistan.

Clearly, when it comes to Afghanistan, Pakistan is Washington’s preferred partner, while India’s assigned role will be to serve as a doormat for the US’ containment policies against China, bandied about as its ‘Indo-Pacific strategy’. The Indian foreign policy elites owe an explanation as to how this bizarre situation came about. The entrenched Sinophobia in the Indian mindset has clouded rational thinking.

The emerging regional security scenario thoroughly exposes the myths shrouding India’s ‘defining partnership’ with the US and scatters the delusional thinking that what is quintessentially a transactional relationship rests on the bedrock of ‘shared values’ and ‘common concerns’ between the two countries. It was never really an equal relationship based on respect and trust or transparency — leave alone strategic convergence.

In retrospect, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative through the last year and a half to build a warm personal relationship with President Vladimir Putin with a view to revive the India-Russia relationship that was systematically atrophied as a matter of Indian policy during the past decade (with an unspoken agenda to give more ballast to the budding military ties with the US), and to expand and deepen the strategic communication with China following the Wuhan summit with President Xi Jinping with a view to improve India-China relations came not a day too soon.

That providential transition — for which wide acceptance is still lacking within our strategic community — significantly enhances India’s capacity today to adjust to the emerging US-Pakistani entente over post-war Afghanistan.
Riaz Haq said…
Incoming #US military chief calls for close ties with #Pakistan “ key partner in achieving US interests in #SouthAsia, including developing a political settlement in #Afghanistan; defeating Al Qaeda and ISIS-Khorasan; providing logistical aid for US forces https://www.dawn.com/news/1493607

Gen Mark Milley, President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also warned at his nomination hearing that a premature withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan would be a strategic mistake.

“If confirmed as chairman, my objective will be to preserve the defence relationship between the United States and Pakistan even as we press Pakistan to take action on US requests,” Gen Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee at a hearing in Washington.

“While we have suspended security assistance and paused major defence dialogues, we need to maintain strong military-to- military ties based on our shared interests,” he added.


The statement, coming 10 days before Imran Khan’s first visit to Washington as prime minister, underlines a key element of the US-Pakistan relationship, the long, and once, close partnership between the two militaries.

It also highlights Pakistan’s support to the Afghan reconciliation process and hints at the role Islamabad played in persuading Taliban leaders to join talks with US in Doha. Pakistan is also believed to have cooperated with the United States in arranging an intra-Afghan dialogue, held in Doha earlier this week.

“I think pulling out prematurely would be a strategic mistake,” the general added while responding to a question about Afghanistan from one of the senators.

Gen Milley, currently the Army’s Chief of Staff, has served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Colombia and is likely to be confirmed without any opposition from either Republican or Democratic lawmakers.

In Afghanistan, he served as the Commanding General, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and Deputy Commanding General, US Forces.

The Senate panel had sent him a set of written questions on sensitive issues, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. His responses underlined the need to maintain a defence relationship with Pakistan, the country’s importance as a key strategic partner, Islamabad’s role in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan and the need for Pakistan’s cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

“If confirmed, what changes, if any, would you recommend to US relations with Pakistan, particularly in terms of military-to-military relations and International Military Education and Training?” the committee asked. Gen Milley pointed out that President Trump’s South Asia strategy recognised Pakistan as “a key partner in achieving US interests in South Asia, including developing a political settlement in Afghanistan; defeating Al Qaeda and ISIS-Khorasan; providing logistical access for US forces; and enhancing regional stability”.
Riaz Haq said…
Ex #Indian Diplomat: "interdependence between #US and #Pakistan. #IMF bailout, #Baloch #BLA #terror list, near-certainty Pakistan is off the hook at the upcoming plenary of the #FATF, an official visit by #ImranKhan to the #WhiteHouse are just starters."
https://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/4/17232/Afghanistan-Keeps-US-Pakistan-In-Interdependency-Alive

There could be several ways of interpreting the US State Department’s decision on Tuesday to designate the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, which imposes economic sanctions on the group and anyone affiliated with it. What is absolutely certain is that this is by no means an altruistic decision by Washington.

The BLA is based in Afghanistan and has been waging a violent armed struggle against Pakistan for the past decade and a half upholding the right of self-determination of the Baloch people and demanding the separation of Balochistan province from Pakistan, apart from being involved in ethnic-cleansing of non-Baloch minorities in Balochistan.

Curiously, the BLA’s timeline (starting from 2004) has been co-terminus with the US’ occupation of Afghanistan. It is inconceivable that the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan were unaware of the BLA’s subversive activities or who were its mentors. Islamabad has been shouting and screaming from the rooftop all this while that its adversaries exploited the group as a proxy to destabilise Pakistan.

Put differently, the timing of the State Department decision banning the BLA is noteworthy. Why now, at this juncture?

These are extraordinary times when almost anything and everything that the US does in the Greater Middle East would have an eye on Iran with which it is locked in an epochal rivalry. Can it be that by making this gesture, Washington hopes to recruit Pakistani military and intelligence to strengthen further its ‘maximum pressure’ strategy against Iran? The possibility cannot be ruled out.

Of course, this is not to suggest that Pakistan will make hostile moves against Iran. Although Pakistan-Iran relations have been highly problematic through the past four decades since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and their mutual animosity kept frothing from time ti time, things never reached a flashpoint as both sides observed certain ground rules of how far to go and what not to do. In the present context, Pakistan will take utmost care not to get entangled in the US-Iran standoff.

Having said that, there is a vital US-Pakistani convergence over Iran that cannot be overlooked, either. That is, when it comes to the Afghan situation. Iran has made it clear that if the US attacks it, it will retaliate against American assets all across the region. There have been two statements at least by senior US officials lately that Iran is moving against American assets in Afghanistan. Iran, of course, has stoutly rejected the allegation, but the US is paranoid — and not without reason.

The point is, apart from the traditional links with the Shi’ite groups in Afghanistan, Tehran also has dealings with the Taliban. Coincidence or not, Washington moved against the BLA within days of an incident in the eastern Afghan province of Wardak on June 26 in which two US soldiers were killed by the Taliban in an ambush.

The incident took place only a day after after Pompeo stopped in the Afghan capital, Kabul, for daylong talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as well as other senior leaders and opposition politicians to discuss two topics, namely, the US’ ongoing efforts to reach a pace agreement with the Taliban and the potential that Iran has to carry out actions that would jeopardise the US exit strategy out of Afghanistan. (Read a report in the Geopolitics magazine entitled Two Topics Dominating Pompeo’s Visit to Afghanistan.)


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