Time for Uncle Sam to learn from history….

 

It is no more a secret that US-Pakistan relations are deteriorating despite hectic damage-control efforts from both the sides. Pakistan seems to have learned from history and come of age and is seeking new partnerships. Its outreach to Russia, US adversary of the Cold War era, is enough to demonstrate that Pakistan’s leadership, more specifically the military establishment, has now become wary of American designs. Both the US and Pakistan have been diplomatic partners since Pakistan came into existence. Both have pursued a number of key interests together. Pakistan facilitated a U.S.-backed expulsion of the Soviets from the region, the United States sent humanitarian assistance to Pakistan in times of natural disasters, and most recently, Pakistan has been a crucial ally for the United States in its “War on Terror.” However, in spite of this the US-Pakistani relationship has shown signs of strain, with many Americans doubting Pakistan’s commitment to eradicating the Taliban from Afghanistan. As the United States supplies billions of dollars in economic and military aid, Americans through their media have promoted the perception that Pakistan supports anti-American insurgents.

Have the Americans also learned lessons from history and their past blunders in Afghanistan?

While Pakistan has realized that it never was treated as an ally by the US, Pakistani officials resist allegations that they are not cooperating with the United States. The post-Cold War conduct of the US strengthens the perception that it has always used Pakistan and consigned it to the dustbin. Pakistan remains the only country which has paid the maximum prices for supporting and facilitating US War on Terror. It suffered 44,000 civilian and around 5,000 military casualties besides economic loss to the tune of about $ one billion for allying with the US. Pakistanis also realize that Americans have failed in its War on Terror and wants to shift the blame on to Pakistan to escape accountability at home.

The question of who is a more reliable partner will be decided by history but there is a universal perception that Americans are not trustworthy. There is hardly any country in the world which would rate Americans as trustworthy partners in international relations. Common Americans have warmth, they respect principles and they are generally good friends but the American administration enjoys an altogether different reputation. The US has so far not been able to have sustained friendship. It has become adept at turning friends into foes in a matter of days.

Pakistan is not the only country where general public is not in favor of trusting the US. Its discriminatory treatment to Pakistan’s archrival, India, specifically angers Pakistani public. Pakistanis are also unhappy with the US for supporting, and sometimes installing, most unpopular regimes in the country.

The maximum price the US has paid for its perception of untrustworthiness in in Afghanistan. It delivered Afghans from the clutches of Taliban regime yet it has not been able to reap the benefits of its huge investments in that country. Americans have been working overtime to raise, fund and arm Afghanistan’s security forces. But recently, the personnel of these forces are turning against Americans and killing the NATO troops. This alarming trend and is called “Green-on-Blue”. It is generally believed that those attacking NATO soldiers are Taliban who have successfully infiltrated the ranks of Afghan Security Forces. This has created trust deficit between Afghan government and the US.

However, Foreign Policy has come up with an interesting theory. According to an analysis carried by the journal, Green-on-blue attacks are not the cause of a trust crisis between the United States and its Afghan partners, but a sobering indication of the loss of Afghan confidence in America as a trustworthy partner. Policy responses to the recent spate of insider attacks have focused on treating the symptom — slowing Afghan training, re-vetting thousands of Afghan local police, or scaling back joint patrols. While some of these measures represent positive steps, they will not be effective — and may actually be counterproductive — without addressing the underlying issues.

This analysis tends to establish that the American plan of leaving Afghanistan in 2014 has angered the Afghans because they do not want to go back to Taliban rule. Everyday conversations among average Afghans are laced with misgivings about the future. These Afghans do not have a clear vision of what a post-ISAF Afghanistan would look like. Subtle messages from ISAF about “security transition” and “enduring partnership” have not been heard, or are suspect in light of the overwhelming message: “WE ARE LEAVING.”

The punch line of the analysis is very interesting. It reads: Afghans do not resent Americans for being occupiers, but rather for leaving the job unfinished, and leaving the door open for the real occupiers to stroll back in.

This analysis seeks to establish that Afghan insider attacks on occupying forces are out of sheer love for the occupiers. This is indeed a strange logic because the Green-on-Blue attacks can only speed up the withdrawal rather than forcing NATO forces to stay on. The fact of the matter is that overstay of the occupation forces in Afghanistan is not welcome. Americans can create enabling environment for Afghans to choose the leaders of their liking and if they do not want Taliban rule, it is for them to decide. The Taliban will automatically be rendered irrelevant for Afghanistan if Afghans are left alone to decide for their future.

The Taliban is a phenomenon of America’s own creation. They achieved their objective of evicting the Soviets and turned their back on the region leaving Afghanistan in turmoil and leadership crisis. Taliban thrived on this crisis and established their rule in the length and breadth of the country. Americans not only forgot Afghanistan, they also turned hostile to their facilitator, Pakistan, which holds key to stability in Afghanistan. When they came back to fight Taliban, they engaged Pakistan again with loud promises of a long-haul relationship and not repeating the past blunders. Pakistanis have mercifully learned their lesson from history. It is time that Americans also did the same.

 

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