Like many Afghans, I was not expecting that President Donald Trump would break 16 years of U.S. silence to publicly slam Pakistan for providing safe havens to the Afghan Taliban, as he did in his remarks on the United States’ policy in Afghanistan and South Asia.
“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens,” Trump said on Aug. 21 in Fort Myer Arlington, Va. “Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor terrorists.”
In response, Pakistan, which flatly denied the allegations, said it is time to end chapter of bilateral assistance with the United States.
I listened carefully to his 25-minute speech during a two-day trip to Ely, Minn., with a bunch of American friends. Backtracking from his campaign pledge to end the country’s longest war, he made it clear the United States won’t repeat the historical mistake of the 1990s by abandoning Afghanistan. He also said he wouldn’t let the country become a second Iraq. Many in the country welcomed his remarks and some have opposed them, including former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Karzai, who ran the country for about 14 years with the grand support of the United States, tweeted that the new U.S. policy to send more troops to the country will further deteriorate security and fuel the deadly war. However, while in power, he always welcomed whatever the United States proclaimed about his country, including the surge when Obama sent 30,000 troops in 2009.
Trump’s anti-Pakistan comments were widely welcomed by most Afghans. These Afghans believe Pakistan uses the militants as proxy forces against the interests of its arch rival India in Afghanistan, as well as against development and prosperity of war-torn Afghanistan.
While Trump’s comments on Pakistan are now quite clear, his actual policy on Afghanistan remains vague. He didn’t specify the number of troops to be deployed or provide a timeline to pull out of the country.
Nevertheless, Trump said the United States would continue training Afghan forces and joining them in fighting the Taliban militants. It’s expected the Pentagon will send an additional 4,000 soldiers to reinforce the 8,400-strong contingent already in the country.
Trump asked India, a good friend to Afghanistan, to engage more in Afghan affairs. His approach to South Asia is apparently sound and may help save the country from turmoil.
Pakistan, now in a greatly strained relationship with the United States, and a foe to both Afghanistan and India needs to listen to the United States, along with many other nations in the region and globally, and immediately stop helping and sponsoring terrorist factions. Pakistan also needs to abandon the Taliban and ask it to join the Afghan government under a peaceful environment.
Trump vowed the United States will win the war unless a peace accord between the Afghan government and the Pakistan-supported Taliban takes place. Pakistan must restore its good image and world admiration by complying with the American and Afghan requests. After all, if Pakistan continues its brutal regional policy, the U.S. might act more aggressively to completely isolate the country and put extremely harsh economic sanctions on it.