‘US view of Pakistan becoming more negative’

The Government of Pakistan may attempt to portray a positive image of US-Pakistan relations but the hard reality is that the US view of Pakistan has become more and more negative over the last few years, especially under the Trump administration.

Recently the Department of Defense released a new report titled ‘Indo-Pacific Strategy Report: Preparedness, Partnerships, and Promoting a Networked Region.’ The aim of the US strategy is to counter Chinese and Russian influence in South Asia but the report only refers to 5 countries in South Asia: India, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. There was no mention of Pakistan.

According to a news story, “Within South Asia, we are working to operationalize our Major Defense Partnership with India, while pursuing emerging partnerships with Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Calling Indo-Pacific as the Department of Defense’s priority theatre, the report titled details that the US will also continue to strengthen security relationships with partners in Southeast Asia with countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and sustaining engagement with Brunei, Laos, and Cambodia.”

Further, “Our vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific recognises the linkages between economics, governance, and security that are part of the competitive landscape throughout the region, and that economic security is national security,” the report further says adding that in order to achieve the vision, “we will uphold the rule of law, encourage resilience in civil society, and promote transparent governance – all of which expose malign influences that threaten economic development everywhere. Our vision aspires to a regional order in which independent nations can both defend their interests and compete fairly in the international marketplace. It is a vision which recognises that no one nation can or should dominate the Indo-Pacific. In recognition of the region’s need for greater investment, including infrastructure investment, the United States seeks to invigorate our development and finance institutions to enable us to become better, more responsive partners.”

According to an article in The National Interest, Michael Rubin argues that ‘Winning in Afghanistan Requires Taking the Fight to Pakistan.’ Rubin states that “The stability of Afghanistan—and the denial of its territory to terrorist groups—requires a good-faith Pakistani agreement to cease backing extremists, and after nearly two decades, this means, coercing Pakistan.”

Further, “If the Afghan peace process is to succeed, then the United States must bring the full weight of leverage to bear on Pakistan in order to win a cessation of Pakistani support for the Taliban. Despite decades of tension, and occasional sanctions mostly applied over the nuclear issue, the United States has many options in its diplomatic arsenal as yet unused in its quest to compel Pakistan to reduce support to the Taliban or to raise the cost of defiance.”

Rubin recommends, “First, Pakistan might be put on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) blacklist given its extensive ties to terror groups. Simply put, there is no reason why Pakistan should receive a pass for diplomatic convenience, especially when it has shown a consistent unwillingness to act with good will. Second, in 2004, the George W. Bush administration designated Pakistan “a Major Non-NATO Ally.” This move provided Islamabad with benefits in both defense purchasing and cooperation and was also a mark of confidence in Pakistan. Rescinding such designation would accordingly signal a lack of confidence. Third, Pakistan continues, with U.S. support, to receive International Monetary Fund and World Bank loans to help resolve its balance-of-payments problems, most recently negotiating a $6 billion IMF loan. Given the amount Pakistan spends on militancy support, the future U.S. position should be to oppose all such loans or at least make them contingent on an end to any assistance to the Taliban. Consider that to be the Pakistan equivalent of the Taylor Force Act. It may be unwise to target the entirety of Pakistan for what, in reality, are the actions of a handful of specific military officers and ISI veterans well known to the United States. These individuals—and terror-supporting politicians—might be individually designated, much as Iranian Qods Force head Qassem Soleimani is. Finally, in its counterterrorism fight in Afghanistan, U.S. forces have yet to strike at Afghan Taliban bases in Pakistan. While the U.S. military has violated Pakistani territory—for example, in the mission to kill Osama bin Laden whom Pakistani authorities were hiding—it has never taken the Afghanistan fight into Pakistan. It may be time to do so, if only to signal to Pakistan the costs of providing safe haven to the Taliban and also to signal to Islamabad that Pakistan will not be immune from terror camp targeting as U.S. counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan shifts from occupation to an over-the-horizon posture. Pakistan may be a nuclear power, but this is a move which India has used to great effect to demonstrate the consequences of Pakistani terror support.”

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