What are Pakistan’s Options after Trump’s Afghanistan Speech?

After President Trump’s Afghanistan speech, it appears that Pakistan is left with one option: a complete pullout from the endless war on terror.

speech-trump-afghanPakistani media has been in an uproar over President Donald Trump’s claims that Islamabad shelters terrorists. These allegations were made during the President’s address to the nation on August 21.

Besides the usual Trumpism, the president outlined a new strategic policy for Afghanistan and South Asia. Trump ridiculed Pakistan by stating that it provides “safe havens for agents of chaos, violence and terror.” This condescending statement belittles the sacrifices Pakistanis have made since 9/11, considering the fact that 60,000 Pakistanis have died in the “War on Terror.”

Official reaction by Pakistan, as hoped, was the rejection of the false narrative of the “safe havens” for terrorists. These allegations are not new. However, this time President Trump hinted there could be a downgrade of relations with Pakistan in the War on Terror. National Security Council spokesperson Michael Anton echoed Trump’s frustration by adding, “Business as usual [with Pakistan] as it has been up to now is over.”

It remains to be seen what direction this latest reprimanding will take over the course of time. Yet singling out Pakistan for housing terrorists seems rather simplistic. Indeed, Pakistan has not been the only nation in the world accused of using terrorists as proxies to advance strategic goals.

Even a cursory look at the current and recent situation in the Middle East makes the image clear as how powerful states use terrorists for their strategic goals. Pakistan’s situation is very complex. It must be mindful of India’s expanding influence in Afghanistan. Blaming Pakistan for supporting militants in Afghanistan while praising India and inviting New Delhi to play a role in Kabul further alienates Islamabad. This alienation exposes Pakistan to greater internal instability.

The Pakistani people have suffered greatly because of this endless war on terror. Corruption, instability, terrorism and a dwindling economy has devastated the nation. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, Pakistan learned how to use religious-inspired terrorism for its strategic purposes. Obviously, Pakistan learned this from the United States.

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Pakistanis supporting the Afghan resistance to Soviet occupation were taught how to wage jihad. This teaching continues through the curriculum in Pakistan’s public education system. As a result, many Pakistanis have become vulnerable to extremist ideology, and this remains a perennial threat to the nation.

Every leader has the right to put his own house in order. And while President Trump might be doing that, what options are now available for Pakistan?

Pakistan installed a pro-Pakistani government in Kabul. What is its end goal in Afghanistan? Pakistan must also think of its military strategy in the region which only perpetuates internal chaos.

It appears that Pakistan is left with one option: a complete pullout from the endless war on terror.

Pakistan needs to seal and secure its borders with Afghanistan; mainstream the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA); and fight the internal extremists and terrorists with a clear mission of achieving permanent peace. Pakistan must now leave Afghanistan to its people as they have the genuine right to prosper and succeed in their sovereign territory.

Zubair Torwali is an author and researcher based in Swat, Pakistan. He is the author of the book Muffled voices: Longing for a Pluralist and Peaceful Pakistan. Read other articles by Zubair.