Dr. Sophia Imran
The United States’ South Asia strategy underscores its determination to defeat the Taliban, even if it does so at the expense of disrupting regional peace and security. It allows the U.S commanders the authority to militarily target the alleged terrorist safe havens inside neighboring Pakistan.
Such an act would be in blatant defiance of Article 2(4) of the UN charter, on the use of force against the territorial integrity of other states, which the U.S government ratified in 1945. Moreover, the United States South Asia Strategy does not take into account the unreasonable demands Washington has put on Pakistan in return of the payments for logistical and operational support for anti-terror operations in Afghanistan.
USA has driven Pakistan to take measures at the cost of the latter’s own security and sovereignty to serve the former’s national interests. The United States’ expectations of Pakistan to deliver results and to do more to counter ‘terrorism’ are unjustifiable as Islamabad has already paid $123.1 billion on account of loss of lives, economic setbacks and damage to the country’s infrastructure.
The irrational decisions of the United States in Afghanistan have had devastating consequences, including the creation of a massive refugee crisis, civilian casualties on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and rising terrorism across the region.
Trump’s narrative that Pakistan has not done enough to fight terrorism and United States’ accusations that Pakistan provides save havens to the Haqqani group is counterproductive. It brings up an oft-repeated counter narrative that it was the United States that nurtured the growth of the Taliban and has been unable to contain it for various reasons.
There is no denying the fact that the United States in Afghanistan has failed to quash terrorists and halt their infiltration into the neighbouring countries such as Pakistan and Iran, causing massive disruptions and loss of lives. History has proved that United States has always set high expectations on other countries, meddling in their affairs and expecting them to align with its policies, even at the expense of their national sovereignty. And yet, Washington considers taboo for other countries to have expectations of the United States.
The Trump administration has turned a blind eye to the severe backlashes Pakistan has suffered each time it has launched an offensive against the Pakistani Taliban’s main strongholds. Pakistan has experienced a wave of retaliatory terrorist attacks across the country, robbing thousands of innocent lives.
Since Al Qaeda took refuge in Pakistan, it has experienced its worst years of domestic terrorism. Pakistan has paid a steep price for supporting the United States in its “war on terror.” Bomb blasts and suicide attacks have killed more than 60,000 civilians, security personnel and women and children across Pakistan. Despite stepping up its operations and killing 3,500 Taliban militants, destroying 992 terrorist hideouts, clearing 3,600 square kilometres of territory, and enduring horrific terrorist attacks such as the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar,the Trump policy is getting increasingly harder on Pakistan. In its attempts to pressurise Pakistan further; the US has lobbied to put Pakistan on Financial Action Task Force Watch List accusing Pakistan for not doing enough to combat terrorism
The reality that Pakistan does not fit the established narrative of a dangerous nation has gone unacknowledged. Violence has declined by three quarters in the last two years. The country is safer than at any point since United States “war on terror” began 17 years ago. The Global terrorism Index 2017 and the recent report released by National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) Islamabad contradict the United States allegations regarding Pakistan’s non-compliance with The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) rules and regulations on terrorism. However, a recent report by the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) also clearly states that terrorism has fallen significantly in Pakistan as compared to the previous years.
United States’ motion to place Pakistan on the global terrorist financing watch list and its attempts to sideline and reproach Pakistan – who has been on the front line to curb terrorism and in targeting insurgents – could reflect the geopolitical intentions of the US. A spokesperson for RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan) states in her interview, saying “the United States has never worked in a country for its prosperity, rather for its own interests and aims. US killed hundreds of Afghan revolutionaries and freedom-fighters through its fundamentalist mercenaries in the 1980s and 90s, it used these tactics to prevent the rise of nationalist, freedom-fighting and independent figures and forces that would resist its occupation and bullying.”
Nearly 17 years after the 9/11 event, US troops are still present and deployed in Afghanistan. In a more than decade-long invasion and spending trillions of dollars to obliterate terrorist groups, the United States has still been unable to curb terrorism. In the process, it has also lost 2,350 troops and has 20,092 veterans who suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The power and influence of the Taliban has increased and the security situation has worsened in the region. The insurgency is on the rise and Taliban now control more territory in Afghanistan than at any point before the invasion, as revealed in a SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) January 2018 report.
In the regional perspective, the prolonged nature of war raises serious questions regarding the United States’ efficacy in conducting the war and the legality of continued fighting in Afghanistan. It casts a shadow of doubt on whether the US regional policy is really about building constructive relationships with other countries and counter-terrorism or is it for greater U.S. economic and strategic gains in the region.
Sophia Imran is a development professional and a researcher. She has a PhD in Sustainable Tourism Management from University of Southern Queensland. She is currently focusing her research on public policy and peace related issues.