|By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army
When President Donald Trump unveiled his new Af-Pak policy on August 21, 2017 through a televised speech, he was most direct in telling Pakistan how it has been playing the double game with the US. He had pointedly stated: Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror; we can no longer be silent about Pakistan's safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond; Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism but Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people; we have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change, and that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country's harboring of militants and terrorists who target US service members and officials; it is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace. Trumps left future operations open ended saying it is counterproductive to announce dates intended to begin or end military options, numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Following Trump’s address, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in a press briefing, “We are going to attack terrorists wherever they live. If you are providing safe havens to terrorists, be forewarned”. Tillerson had also said the US could consider sanctions on Pakistan or cut off its status as a major non-NATO ally if Islamabad does not crack down on the Taliban and other extremist groups. But now the US Congress has authorized to reimburse up to $700 million in Coalition Support Fund (CSF) to Pakistan for activities carried out in support of US operations in Afghanistan.
Pakistan will get $350 million of USD 700 million after US Secretary of State James Mattis certifies that Pakistan took demonstrable steps against the Haqqani network. Similarly, in September 2017, the US provided $255 million military aid to Pakistan, with usual conditions attached that Islamabad can access the funds only if it acts against terror groups based in the tribal areas and stop cross-border attacks in Afghanistan. But a constituency in Capital Hill is ensuring that US military aid to Pakistan continues despite Pakistan openly stating it does not require the US largesse anymore, having become a protectorate of China. This is most unfortunate because General John Nicholson, Commander of US Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission told reporters post a NATO defence ministers conference in Brussels recently that Pakistan had not changed its behavior since President Donald Trump announced his new policy for Afghanistan and the wider region, a policy that specifically called on Pakistan to do more, adding, "No, I haven't seen any change yet in their (Pakistan’s) behavior". So the moot question is, why the continued monetary assistance to Pakistan when there is no change in Pakistan’s behavior? Similarly why the pressure for Indo-Pak dialogue when Pakistan is continuing to wage proxy war on India, cross-border ceasefire violations, infiltration, digging tunnels and the like? Pakistan’s has been playing the double game successfully all these years despite US and NATO military commanders in Afghanistan pointing out what the ground situation was; implying terrorist sanctuaries inside Pakistan must be destroyed.
Numerous scholars, journalists and counter terrorist experts in the US and Afghanistan periodically reported the intimate links between the Haqqani network (major concern of US) and the Pakistani military and that the real problem lay inside Pakistan, from where Pakistan continued to export terrorism across its borders. Michael Hughes wrote in Huffington Post on July 6, 2010, “Nine years, nearly $300 billion dollars and 1900 dead coalition soldiers later, the US has officially verified that the entire war effort has been focused on the wrong side of the mountains”. Despite this “officially verified” bit and Pakistan sheltering Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, US support to Pakistan continued unabated - military, financial, coalition funding, you name it. A constituency in Capitol Hill continued to nurture Pakistan despite ISI’s elaborate links some 15 international-regional terrorist organization, and Najam Sethi warning in the Friday Times of March 16-22, 2012, “The ISI has walked into GHQ and seized command and control of the armed forces”. Ironically, Pakistan would be fool to change its behaviour sitting in the lap of China and continuing to get American funds. About time, the US reviews its military assistance to Pakistan and hits terrorist sanctuaries in that country. Otherwise, it amounts to playing the double game with India.