'US administration divided over tackling Pakistan', says Foreign Policy report
Even as US President Donald Trump bashed Pakistan time and again, accusing it of doing little to curb terrorism despite receiving massive aids, the White House in the Trump era is divided over how to tackle Pakistan, a Foreign Policy magazine story 'Is Trump Ready to Dump Pakistan?' reported.
While a section of the officials sought a hardline approach on Islamabad, others cautioned that unfriending a nuclear power which is strategically important, could be dangerous.
As per the report, the divide in the Trump administration on how to handle Pakistan was recently reflected in statements made by the US officials who requested Pakistan to put more efforts in eliminating terrorism but also acknowledged that Pakistan has indeed taken some right steps.
On the other hand, the hardliners were of the opinion that providing Islamabad with all kinds of aid virtually did not give anything in return and the wisdom now lies in taking strong actions against it.
It is also believed that the punitive action that the Trump administration took against Pakistan in terms of suspension of aid had a positive impact on Islamabad and the officials have been urged to maintain the pressure on one of the most trusted allies of the US in history.
Pakistan had served as a trusted ally of the US in its fight against the erstwhile Soviet Union. It helped the Americans to consolidate the fight against the Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan besides helping them to bridge the gap with China. However, in the post-Cold War era and especially in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the US, the equation changed drastically.
The national interests of the US and Pakistan started clashing over Taliban in Afghanistan. While the US found a permanent enemy in the Taliban and vowed to free Afghanistan from them, Pakistan found in them a trusted ally to disrupt India's plans to play a big role in Afghanistan and create challenges at Pakistan's western borders.
The Haqqani Network in Afghanistan became a headache for the US but yet it could not push Pakistan to take steps against it. The US had Pakistan with it as an ally in the war on terrorism but the latter's changed priorities made it difficult to align it with the American interests.
This has left the US frustrated and it is planning to bring India into the Afghan picture to corner Pakistan but at the same time, the country's strategic significance and proximity to China have made Washington apprehensive about dumping it completely.
The arrival of two hawkish officials in Trump administration could have an impact
However, the appointment of two hawkish officials - Mike Pompeo and John Bolton -- as the secretary of state and national security adviser, respectively, could see the hardliners gain prominence in deciding the US's policy on Pakistan.
The Trump administration is considering a permanent halt to the annual flow of military aid to Pakistan this year, said the Foreign Policy article, leaving a serious impact on Islamabad's defence budget and also deny it useful American military hardware.
The report also said that the US is even thinking of imposing drastic measures like visa bans and other punitive measures against members of the government of Pakistan, its military, the Inter-Services Intelligence who are suspected of helping the Taliban and Haqqani Network operators to function from inside Pakistan.
Pakistan in the past took the advantage of the US administration's apprehension that it could ruin the Afghanistan peace process if alienated. But according to the Foreign Policy article, the US has gradually run out of patience and this could translate into a severe backlash against Islamabad.
Hard policies on Pakistan would not be decisive even today for countries like China and Russia would come to its full aid but at least, the US would eventually show its tough face in dealing with Islamabad.