A significant development took place after Trump’s diatribe towards Pakistan in his speech on Afghan policy when US Ambassador David Hale and National Security Advisor Lt Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua had a meeting.
Ambassador Hale stated Trump had not blamed Pakistan and the press interpreted his speech piece by piece instead of seeing and weighing it as a whole.
How can a direct attack on Pakistan in plain English be misinterpreted by the entire Pakistani media? The diatribe follows on heels of US withholding of Pakistani reimbursements over Haqqani network. This denial of even admitting choice of wrong words is adding insult to injury.
Pakistan’s Parliament passed a resolution condemning the diatribe by Trump. Maybe the Parliament as a whole too misinterpreted his speech by viewing it piece by piece instead of seeing and weighing it as a whole?
The resolution is a positive step yet weak in itself without any supporting step. FM Khawaja Asif’s visit to Russia, China and Turkey to discuss the new Afghan policy is a step in the right direction. However, Iran too, must be taken on board as part of equation to seek solution in Afghanistan.
Pakistan as a mark of protest against this diatribe should close the main NATO supply route into Afghanistan for a declared minimum three days to a maximum one week.
Only nations that stand with dignity and honor are respected. Those without are kicked and rightfully so. Trump’s public diatribe against Pakistan has made the people of Pakistan angry. According to a conservative estimate between 65,000 to 80,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives after US invaded Afghanistan and declared a War on Terror.
Trump must give an explanation of US role in Afghanistan before targeting one variable in the equation. What are US’s objectives in staying in Pakistan today as opposed to time of Afghanistan’s invasion?
Here are the reasons why the question is being put up:
- The surge in Afghanistan produced opium is 43% in 2016. The US has failed to curb the increasing production and trade in opium. To the contrary, in Garmsir district government has imposed a tax on opium production to bolster local government’s earnings much as Taliban have imposed on production of opium in lands under their control. Reportedly, Afghan officials are directly involved in this competition for greater revenue with US army personnel sucked into supporting the government functionaries. “There are phases of government complicity, starting with accommodation of the farmers and then on to cooperation with them,” said David Mansfield, a researcher who conducted more than 15 years of fieldwork on Afghan opium. (NYT Feb. 16, 2016) The farmers growing opium do so out of utter desperation to earn a decent livelihood. The US, in the much touted objective of ‘nation building’ in Afghanistan, has failed to offer alternate production options to these farmers. Not only the production of opium and its sale in Taliban controlled lands funds terrorism, those produced on government owned lands provides opium using a complex channel from the poor farmer producing it to its supply in both wholesale and retail markets in western countries. This hierarchy of prices is acknowledged by the US administration:
“Afghan heroin sells on the international narcotics market for 100 times the price farmers get for their opium right out of the field”. (US State Department quoted by the Voice of America (VOA), 27 February 2004). The heroin business is not “filling the coffers of the Taliban” as claimed by US government and the international community: quite the opposite! The proceeds of this illegal trade are the source of wealth formation, largely reaped by powerful business/criminal interests within the Western countries. These interests are sustained by US foreign policy. (Quoting research by Prof Michel Chossudovsky: June 14, 2005)
- According to NYT, Trump is drawn to “Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth, which his advisers and Afghan officials have told him could be profitably extracted by Western companies. To explore the possibilities, the White House is considering sending an envoy to Afghanistan to meet with mining officials. Last week, as the White House fell into an increasingly fractious debate over Afghanistan policy, three of Mr. Trump’s senior aides met with a chemical executive, Michael N. Silver, to discuss the potential for extracting rare-earth minerals. Mr. Silver’s firm, American Elements, specializes in these minerals, which are used in a range of high-tech products.”(July 25, 2017). This, he feels, can be a reason to stay engaged in Afghanistan, reportedly.
- According to a report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the US is among the top five major countries of the world producing and supplying arms to other nations. US heads the top five with a 9.9$ billion worth of sales according to SIPRI. Reportedly according to a Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales program, the US State department approved of possible sale of grenade launchers, rifles and machine guns to Afghanistan as per Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s press release on August 18, 2016. It was in 2002 that the US allowed US arms companies to sell both military equipment and arms to Afghanistan.
- In the past decade and a half US spending in Afghanistan has reached unprecedented levels – with Al-Jazeera quoting a figure just over $700bn and Brown University quoting close to $800bn – in support of Afghan governments, building infrastructure and spending on army. However, widespread corruption and poor monitoring by US on ground have not led to a good result card. In spite of this massive spending 54% of the Afghan territory is under the control of Taliban.
America’s actions in Afghanistan are contradicting her stated objectives. In his speech Trump made no mention of nation building. The entire speech revolved around blame game. Pakistan is the favored scapegoat, also linking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons with terrorism.
The US needs to stop mixing business with peace attainment goal in Afghanistan and making Pakistan a scapegoat for her own failings.
Endnote: “Everyone loves a witch hunt as long as it’s someone else’s witch being hunted.” Walter Kirn (regular reviewer for The New York Times Book Review)