Trump Cuts Aid to Pakistan: the Future of US-Pakistan Relations

In the ringing of the new year, President Trump released a new foreign policy statement via Twitter regarding America’s aid to Pakistan. Aid to Pakistan “no more!” as their “lies and deceit” can no longer be tolerated, typed Trump.[1] Newspapers such as The Independent headlined: “Trump’s first tweet of 2018 sparks crisis in Pakistan”.[2] Over two months later, the question remains: what lies in store for US-Pakistani relations? The arguments for and against Trump’s cut to aid need to be examined in reference to whether its aim was fulfilled, as well as its consequence for bilateral relations and on the common goal of counter-terrorism. This article will first assess the benefits and weaknesses of aid before moving on to its implications on the Pakistan-US relations. Overall, Trump’s aid cut is counterproductive, as terrorism will likely to flourish with less counter-terrorism funding. It will also further alienate Pakistan from America, prompting it to move closer to China and undermining coordinated counter-terrorism policies in the entire region.

The most common justification for cutting $255 million in security to Pakistan refers to the corruption currently rampant in the Pakistani government.[3] Many American taxpayers are reassured that their wages will no longer subsidise corruption in a foreign state.[4] According to the Trump administration, the Pakistani government has been playing a double game with terrorists and American government. Indeed, the Haqqani network are known to have an ‘ambiguous’ relationship with the Pakistani army, both of which worked with the CIA to counter the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1991.[5] The United States has often been accused of hypocrisy for aiding a government which welcomes Afghani terrorists and makes little effort to oppose its own. It is clear and unquestionable that the army needs to step up to fight against terrorism. Furthermore, Ms. Fair and Ms. Gaungly argue that even if cutting aid does not reach its objective, it will still be symbolically powerful as Pakistan will come to the terms that it cannot blindly rely on the United States for unlimited and untied funds.[6]

Nevertheless, whether cutting aid is the appropriate leverage to convince the Pakistani army government to crack down on terrorism remains an uncertain issue. alone, terrorism in Pakistan has resulted in 30,000 casualties and cost the Pakistani economy $120 billion over 15 years.[7] Furthermore, President Trump’s strategy may prove to be short-sighted: instead of mitigating regional security threats, aid cuts may instead undermined US-Pakistani relations in the long-term. The Pakistan foreign ministry has been said that “it is disappointing that the US policy statement ignores the economic sacrifices rendered by Pakistani nation in this (counter-terrorism) effort. [8] Further, Jamat-e-Islami, a marginal yet influential party, told the FT “our message has always been that you can’t trust the Americans. Now Trump has is proving it.”[9] Arguably, the key to pressurising a harder response to terrorism was to develop their relationship and form coordinated responses, in addition to helping strengthen the accountability of Pakistan’s civil institutions. Instead, Pakistan has ramped up its own pride by biting back to US through threats of cutting intelligence-sharing due to “infuriation from Trump’s hard-line rhetoric and aid suspension.”[10] Further, Pakistan’s threat to cut the land route for US troops into Afghanistan as well as the supply route for US troops through the Karachi port still looms.[11]

It wouldn’t be illogical to also ponder if this new policy made things worse. Trump’s tweet has been used as evidence to fuel anti-Western propaganda and rhetoric spread by domestic politicians such as Imran Khan, furthering hostilities between the two nations[12]. Such politicians do not hesitate to condemn Trump’s accusations as biased and inaccurate, arguing that Pakistan should not be given full responsibility for the regional growth in terrorism. The Pakistani Ambassador to the US remarked that Pakistan was not responsible for cross-border migration from Afghanistan but that better management and the “need (to) secure that border” was necessary to prevent rise of terrorism in Pakistan. It is valid to suggest that Pakistan cannot be fully responsible for the growth of terrorism as seen in the recent attacks in Afghanistan, however, Pakistan should do more with cross-border migration of terrorists in terms of investing in border control. Nevertheless, without proper funding from the US., it is hard to see how they can achieve this alone.[13] Others argue that US-Pakistani relations will stay the same, such as citing the closeness of certain Pakistani and American military-men: American General Jospeh Votel recently met with Pakistani General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and was flown to Wazristan , a significant area known for its militant activities.[14] It is hard to see Pakistan changing its domestic policy by means of sanctions.[15] Instead, all that has occurred is increased tensions between the two nations.

As a result of these tensions, American hopes to increase counter-terrorism strategies have instead backfired. America’s drone campaigns underway in Afghanistan and North-West Pakistan will be further condemned and countered by the Pakistani government even though they were previously quietly accepted in return for good US-Pakistan relations. The Pakistani Defence Minister, Dastigir-Khan, was quoted to have said “US have given us nothing but incentive and mistrust”.[16] The quote highlights the anti-American sentiment, and which underlie the unintended and unforeseen consequence of closer relations of Islamabad and Beijing. Evidently, Trump failed to appreciate the consequences of the CEPC when formulating his tweet, as the CEPC arguably reduces Pakistan’s reliance on Trump’s military aid, since Islamabad can rely on Beijing to provide the necessary funds. Some in the West have pointed that Washington could further threaten Pakistan to be removed as a “non-NATO ally” and thus have more leverage over Pakistan.[17] The benefits of adding fire to the oil haven’t been justifiable as of yet, but the consequences for increasing tensions are definitely worth monitoring.

To conclude, Trump’s cut to aid has both positive and negative consequences. American taxpayers can rejoice in the fact that their wages are no longer funnelled into a foreign state’s corrupt government. Trump surely revels in denouncing the “lies and deceit” of the Pakistani government. However, the short-sightedness of these benefits may result in detrimental consequences in the long-term, particularly regarding increased tensions between US-Pakistan, which has broader implications for the entire region’s security. Especially regarding red-hot tensions between Pakistan and India, the US must be very careful and strategic about how they interact with the Pakistani government. The US should be clear in their security objectives in Pakistan without prompting Pakistan to cosy up to China and undermine a viable counter-terrorism relationship.

Habiba Paracha is a first-year student studying International Relations at King’s College London. She is particularly interested in security issues and foreign policy in the Middle East and Asia.

Bibliography:

[1] Donald Trump’s tweet, Twitter, https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/947802588174577664?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fworld-us-canada-42536209

[2] Mythili Sampathkumar, “Trump’s first tweet of 2018 sparks crisis in Pakistan as it summons US ambassador,” The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-pakistan-us-tweet-crisis-ambassador-security-meeting-latest-a8138561.html

[3] Ibid.

[4] C. Christine Fair and Sumit Gaungly, “Pakistan and the Myth of “Too Dangerous to Fail,” Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/pakistan/2018-01-08/pakistan-and-myth-too-dangerous-fail

[5] Katrina Mason, “Pakistan defends move not to take military action against Haqqani”, Financial Times, https://www.ft.com/content/aa8df0ee-fce3-11e7-9b32-d7d59aace167

[6] C. Christine Fair and Sumit Gaungly, “Pakistan and the Myth of “Too Dangerous to Fail,” Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/pakistan/2018-01-08/pakistan-and-myth-too-dangerous-fail

[7] Ibid.

[8] Kiran Stacey, Farhan Bokhari and Katrina Mason, “Pakistan exasperated by wavering US policy on Afghanistan, Financial Times, https://www.ft.com/content/27651310-8726-11e7-bf50-e1c239b45787

[9] Ibid.

[10] Mason, “Pakistan defends move not to take military action against Haqqani”, Financial Times, https://www.ft.com/content/aa8df0ee-fce3-11e7-9b32-d7d59aace167

[11] Ahmed Rashid,”Pakistan struggles while Afghanistan celebrates Trump’s cuts”, Financial Times, https://www.ft.com/content/8d2c16d6-f467-11e7-88f7-5465a6ce1a00

[12] Shuja Nawaz, “Trump’s Flawed Pakistan Policy”, Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/pakistan/2018-01-10/trumps-flawed-pakistan-policy

[13] Mason, “Pakistan defends move not to take military action against Haqqani”, Financial Times, https://www.ft.com/content/aa8df0ee-fce3-11e7-9b32-d7d59aace167

[14] Paul Mcleary and Dan De Luce, “Trump Administration Threatens to Cut Aid to Pakistan. Does it matter?”, Foreign Policy, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/08/23/trump-administration-threatens-to-cut-aid-to-pakistan-does-it-matter/

[15] Mason, “Pakistan defends move not to take military action against Haqqani”, Financial Times, https://www.ft.com/content/aa8df0ee-fce3-11e7-9b32-d7d59aace167

[16] Sampathkumar, “Trump’s first tweet of 2018 sparks crisis in Pakistan as it summons US ambassador,” The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-pakistan-us-tweet-crisis-ambassador-security-meeting-latest-a8138561.html

[17] Fair and Gaungly, “Pakistan and the Myth of “Too Dangerous to Fail””, Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/pakistan/2018-01-08/pakistan-and-myth-too-dangerous-fail

 

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