In his recent interview on Fox News Sunday, US President Donald Trump, in his usual “undiplomatic” demeanor, launched a tirade against Pakistan and accused Islamabad of “doing nothing” in the US war on terror.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was scathing in his response to the US president for not stating the facts and failing to acknowledge Pakistan’s sacrifices. In his tweets, Khan asserted that Pakistan, even with no involvement in the 9/11 attacks, had so far suffered around 75,000 casualties and $123 billion in financial and economic losses.
Further rebutting Trump’s claims of “billions of dollars in US aid to Pakistan,” Khan said that Washington’s aid to Islamabad was a “miniscule” $20 billion. The cricketer-turned-politician explained how Pakistan’s Pashtun tribal areas (formerly known as FATA) were devastated and millions of people uprooted from their homes as a result of the war on terror.
Interestingly, Khan’s tweets were also consistent with his historical political stance on the war on terror, where he has openly opposed Pakistan fighting “US’ war on its soil.”
However, it was Khan’s tweet that highlighted the US scapegoating of Pakistan for covering its own failures in Afghanistan. “Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the US should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140,000 NATO troops plus 250,000 Afghan troops & reportedly $1 trillion spent on war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before,” tweeted Khan.
Khan’s summarizing of the Afghan situation also highlights why the US is currently desperate to pull out of the country that it entered 17 years ago to “win a war” that it has not won in all these years.
Even according to recent reports, the Taliban now control more territory in the country than ever before. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), an official US watchdog, also admitted that the government control in Afghanistan had reduced to only 55 percent amid a record number of causalities among Afghan forces in recent months.
On the other hand, the SIGAR, in its quarterly reports, has also exposed gross misappropriations and failures in Afghanistan. In its recent audit, the watchdog expressed concerns over irregularities in US funding for defense consulting in Afghanistan.
The SIGAR found that since 2010, the US Department of Defense had awarded contracts worth $1.62 billion to DynCorp International to improve the capacity of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior. However, because of lack of planning, monitoring and evaluation, the progress and impact of such huge contracts and spending was still unknown.
More importantly, besides spending around $1 trillion, the US has also lost around 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan. Hence, after such failures, rather than scapegoating Pakistan and belittling its sacrifices in the war on terror, the US administration needs serious introspection on how to proceed with the peace process and end the war.
If the US were “succeeding” in Afghanistan, groups like the Islamic State would not have gained ground recently. It is also because of these new security threats and the lack of progress by the US and its allies that other regional stakeholders, mainly Russia and China, are now playing an active role toward establishing peace in Afghanistan by bringing the Taliban to the talks table.
Pakistan has also repeatedly expressed its commitment toward establishing lasting peace in Afghanistan. It was reportedly on US request that Pakistan recently freed Mullah Baradar, a former senior Taliban leader, to assist the peace dialogue with the militia, currently led by US representative on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad.
However, with no major breakthrough in peace talks, President Trump himself feels skeptical about the prospects of success of the dialogue with the Taliban. He needs to realize if his administration aims to achieve peace in Afghanistan, it would need Pakistan’s assistance one way or the other.
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry, while protesting Trump’s statement with a top US diplomat, has already warned that anti-Pakistan rhetoric from Washington could negatively affect the Afghan peace process.
Hence, the last thing this region needs is statements that create tensions and are used as distractions to hide Washington’s failures in Afghanistan.
The author is a PhD (politics) candidate in Australia.