Trump cannot afford to walk away from Pakistan: NY Times

American newspaper New York Times has written that despite the differences and issues, Trump cannot afford to walk away from Pakistan.

In its editorial on January 5, the newspaper wrote that Mr. Trump is not the first to adopt this policy. In 2011, Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, alleged that the Haqqani network was a “veritable arm” of the Pakistani security service. “Extremist organizations serving as proxies of the government of Pakistan are attacking Afghan troops and civilians as well as U.S. soldiers,” he said.

"But President Trump cannot afford to walk away from Pakistan, which has often provided vital intelligence and has the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal. Whether Pakistan will cooperate after the aid freeze remains to be seen. Initially, some Pakistani officials reacted harshly to the announcement, which came as a surprise, but on Friday, a Foreign Ministry statement talked about the need for mutual respect and patience as the two countries address common threats," wrote the paper.

Mr. Trump could marshal other diplomatic tools, to see if more constructive cooperation with Pakistan is possible. One idea would be to harness his new friendships with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to shut down Haqqani and other Taliban fund-raising efforts in the Persian Gulf.

This would, of course, require quiet negotiations, not shouting.

Times further wrote that Pakistan has long posed a dilemma for the United States — should America provide it with aid and treat it as an ally because of its potential to help fight regional extremists, or should ties and funding be restricted, or even severed, because of its connections to those groups?

The Trump administration’s announcement on Thursday that it would freeze nearly all military aid to Pakistan, roughly $1.3 billion annually, is the latest of several times in the last 16 years that funding has been withheld or modified out of American frustration with "Pakistan’s support for certain terrorist groups." But President Trump’s bombast and the precipitous way the decision seems to have been made have led to doubts that Mr. Trump has a serious plan for managing the ramifications of this move.

Almost every military flight into Afghanistan goes through Pakistani airspace. Most supplies travel along Pakistani roads and rails. Pakistan could shut down American access at any moment, and some Pakistani officials are threatening to do just that. Pakistan could also ally more closely with China, which is already investing in major new infrastructure projects and expanding its international leadership at America’s expense, and be more hard-line in its rivalry with India. Indeed, China could once again be the beneficiary of a Trump decision estranging the United States from longtime partners, the newspaper mentioned.

The president is good at venting grievances, as he demonstrated in his New Year’s Day tweet on the situation: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years,” he wrote, “and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

But while, to some extent, Mr. Trump has a real point, he has given no assurance that he would not make matters worse.

Americans last cut off assistance to Pakistan in the 1990s after Pakistan tested a nuclear weapon and underwent a military coup, creating distrust between the two countries that has never dissipated. But after Sept. 11, 2001, the relationship was transformed overnight. The United States demanded that Pakistan choose sides in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, as well as their extremist allies who sought safe haven along Pakistan’s lawless border. Pakistan acceded, and it was given major new aid in return.

Source: THE Nation , January 7, 2018

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