Gen McMaster’s Pakistan – Aghan agenda

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The US National Security Adviser Gen H.R. McMaster has said that the Trump administration is working on a policy which will apply to both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and will be announced soon.

The US is mulling over a military-heavy policy option to turn the tables in Afghanistan since it employed the GBU 43 bomb against IS last month in Nangarhar, Afghanistan. A change in policy was deemed necessary because of Taliban’s unabated resurgence. There have been many deliberations and statements but McMaster is the first senior official who has talked about the new policy applying to Pakistan too.

The reference to Pakistan came days after the Intelligence community in the US raised doubts on Islamabad’s fight against terror.

“And so what we’ll have at the end of the next few weeks here is an opportunity for a much more effective strategy for the problem set in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region broadly,” Gen McMaster told a White House news briefing this weekend.

The adviser said the administration was considering a proposal to send thousands of additional troops to Afghan­istan and President Donald Trump would decide when to do so after he returns from his foreign trips later this month. This is in-line with the request of the US commander General John Nicholson.

In a statement to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Director National Intelligence Daniel R Coats talked about the threats emanating from Pakistan to its neighbors and the United States.

“Pakistani-based terrorist groups will present a sustained threat to US interests in the region and continue to plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan. The threat to the United States and the West from Pakistani-based terrorist groups will be persistent but diffuse.”
– Daniel R Coats

He mentioned, “Islamabad’s failure to curb support to anti-India militants and New Delhi’s growing intolerance of this policy, coupled with a perceived lack of progress in Pakistan’s investigations into the January 2016 Pathankot cross-border attack, set the stage for a deterioration of bilateral relations in 2016.”

The word is that this new be Pentagon-led strategy will revolve around increased troop presence and aerial bombings. Recent events have compelled the US to think about a policy shift. The Taliban are attacking the US-trained ANA with impunity, as of now, they control 58% of Afghan territory.

The obvious inability of the Afghan state organs in dealing with the Taliban coupled with the Kabul-Delhi joint demand for action against Pakistan has forced the US to vociferously reiterate its “do more” demand.

What should Islamabad expect?

Pakistan is currently being accused of festering two potent resistance movements, one in Kashmir and the other in Afghanistan. Kabul, and New Delhi clamor for controlling an “unbridled and unruly” Pakistan through stern measures. Pakistan is thus engaged in tiffs with Afghanistan and India, both of which are likely to conflagrate further.

Chances are that the US might up its drone and aerial campaign to target alleged camps in FATA. Further, the US could also put pressure on Islamabad to clamp down on alleged training camps of Jihadi outfits like Lashkar e Taiba.

There are many senior ranking officials in Washington who buy the assertions of India and Afghanistan, to include Gen McMaster. He expressed his concerns during his visit to the region last month.

“As all of us have hoped for many years… We have hoped that Pakistani leaders will understand that it is in their interest to go after these groups less selectively than they have in the past and the best way to pursue their interest in Afghanistan and elsewhere is through diplomacy not through the use of proxies that engage in violence,” he stated in an interview with Tolo News.

He called upon Pakistan to fight terrorism in all forms and manifestation. This was reflective of long-held opinion about Pakistan’s cherry picking of terrorists. One can make out that the US will sternly ask Pakistan to end its so-called double game.

Thus we can expect the US to exert much more pressure on Pakistan. Though, in a trilateral meeting held in GHQ Rawalpindi, the military brass of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the US agreed to take on Daesh through joint efforts.

Chances are that the US might up its drone and aerial campaign to target alleged camps in FATA. Further, the US could also put pressure on Islamabad to clamp down on alleged training camps of Jihadi outfits like Lashkar e Taiba. This is possible given what Gen McMaster said in the briefing about not allowing territories to be used for terrorism.

Gen McMaster said he would stress the need for “all of us have to be committed to achieving our fundamental objectives in Afghanistan,” which is never to allow extremists to use that country once again for launching terrorist attacks.

If statements are anything to go by, the US could very well carry out limited incursions inside FATA to pluck out inimical elements to US war efforts in Afghanistan. Concomitant to these would be the threat of sanctions on the pretext of Pakistan’s acquisition of Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs), something which was addressed by Daniel Coats in his statement. In all the policy shift could mar Pak-US ties in the days to come.

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