Trump’s Doctrine towards South Asia

By Saeed Ullah Khan Wazir.

While preparing Trump’s new South Asia policy for CSS Current Affair, IR and Pakistan Affairs from different available materials, I have come across haphazard, slipshod responses to this pressing, vitally fundamental issue. For holistic analysis and clinical understanding, I have decided to unpack this critical issue threadbare for facilitating aspirants to CSS-2018.

Outline/Scaffold to the Topic

Donald Trump’s new South Asia policy, which includes an open-ended commitment to the conflict in Afghanistan

Pakistan, being the frontline state is still suffering due to the “DO MORE” rhetoric

America’s Core Interests in Afghanistan

Honorable and enduring outcome

Hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum

Security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense

Pakistan gives safe havens to agents of chaos, violence, and terror

Populist streak in Trump’s temperament

Terrorists are to be defeated

America’s interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Stop the resurgence of safe havens

Main Pillars of US Policy

Shift from a time-based approach to  condition-based approach

Integration of all instruments of American power

New strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan

Develop its strategic partnership with India

Full support to materialize all the stated objectives

Preemptive and preventive measures

Drone warfare

Allies should contribute financially, not eating only America’s assets

Afghanistan should bear the lion’s share of military and development expenditures

Nation-building is no more America’s core interest in combat zones: a major departure from America’s long cherished principle

Degrading terrorists so that they may be compelled to negotiating table

Options for Pakistan

Not DO MORE, NOT NO MORE ….. But BETTER MORE …..

After quite a considerable delay, the Trump administration released its first National Security Strategy (NSS). Despite the criticisms of the NSS as isolationist, it does contain sections indicating the administration’s policy toward different regions, including Southeast Asia.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s new South Asia policy, which includes an open-ended commitment to the conflict in Afghanistan, has already had a clear impact. DONALD Trump’s Doctrine after becoming the 45th President of the United States regarding South Asia is not really vague to be speculated.

Pakistan, being the frontline state is still suffering due to the “DO MORE” rhetoric as the Global War on Terror is in the culmination phase now. Afghanistan seems to get drowned into the deeper instability while India’s development and the economic growth faces a temporary setback. If Pakistan is ignored, it would be counterproductive to the US interests in the region. Pakistan is the state that cannot be marginalized for a longer period of time. Stronger ties with Pakistan will result in peace and an end to the insurgency in Afghanistan that is ultimately in the interest of the whole world especially US.

America’s Core Interests in Afghanistan

I arrived at three fundamental conclusions about America’s core interests in Afghanistan.

Honorable and enduring outcome

First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives.  The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory.  They deserve the tools they need, and the trust they have earned, to fight and to win.

Hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum

Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable.  9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists.  A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11th.

And, as we know, in 2011, America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq.  As a result, our hard-won gains slipped back into the hands of terrorist enemies.  Our soldiers watched as cities they had fought for, and bled to liberate, and won, were occupied by a terrorist group called ISIS.  The vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for ISIS to spread, to grow, recruit, and launch attacks.  We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.

Security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense

Third and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense.  Today, 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan — the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world.  

Pakistan gives safe havens to agents of chaos, violence, and terror

For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror.  The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict.  And that could happen. 

No one denies that we have inherited a challenging and troubling situation in Afghanistan and South Asia, but we do not have the luxury of going back in time and making different or better decisions. 

Populist streak in Trump’s temperament

But, one way or another, these problems will be solved — I’m a problem solver — and, in the end, we will win. America and our partners are committed to stripping terrorists of their territory, cutting off their funding, and exposing the false allure of their evil ideology.

Terrorists are to be defeated

Terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next.  They are nothing but thugs, and criminals, and predators, and — that’s right — losers.  Working alongside our allies, we will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders, and yes, we will defeat them, and we will defeat them handily.

America’s interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear:

Stop the resurgence of safe havens

We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America, and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world for that matter.

But to prosecute this war, we will learn from history.  As a result of our comprehensive review, American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically in the following ways:

Main Pillars of US Policy

Shift from a time-based approach to  condition-based approach

A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions.  I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin, or end, military options.  We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities.

Conditions on the ground — not arbitrary timetables — will guide our strategy from now on.  America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out.  I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.

Integration of all instruments of American power

Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power — diplomatic, economic, and military — toward a successful outcome.

Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.  America will continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military as they confront the Taliban in the field. 

Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society, and to achieve an everlasting peace.  We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society.  We are not nation-building again.  We are killing terrorists.

New strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan

The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan.  We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.  Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan.  It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.

In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner.  Our militaries have worked together against common enemies.  The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism.  We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices.  

But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people.  We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.  But that will have to change, and that will change immediately.  No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials.  It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace. 

Develop its strategic partnership with India

Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India — the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States.  We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.  We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region.

Full support to materialize all the stated objectives

Finally, my administration will ensure that you, the brave defenders of the American people, will have the necessary tools and rules of engagement to make this strategy work, and work effectively and work quickly.

Micromanagement from Washington, D.C. does not win battles.  They are won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and frontline soldiers acting in real time, with real authority, and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy.

That’s why we will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan.  These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide; that no place is beyond the reach of American might and Americans arms.  Retribution will be fast and powerful.

Drone warfare

When America commits its warriors to battle, we must ensure they have every weapon to apply swift, decisive, and overwhelming force.  

Preemptive and preventive measures

Our troops will fight to win.  We will fight to win.  From now on, victory will have a clear definition:  attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge. 

Allies should contribute financially, not eating only America’s assets

We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own.  We are confident they will.  Since taking office, I have made clear that our allies and partners must contribute much more money to our collective defense, and they have done so.

Afghanistan should bear the lion’s share of military and development expenditures

In this struggle, the heaviest burden will continue to be borne by the good people of Afghanistan and their courageous armed forces.  As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us.  

America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress.  However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check.  The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political, and economic burden.  The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results.  Our patience is not unlimited.  We will keep our eyes wide open.

Nation-building is no more America’s core interest in combat zones: a major departure from America’s long cherished principle

Afghanistan is fighting to defend and secure their country against the same enemies who threaten us.  The stronger the Afghan security forces become, the less we will have to do.  Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future.  We want them to succeed. 

But we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image.  Those days are now over.  Instead, we will work with allies and partners to protect our shared interests.  We are not asking others to change their way of life, but to pursue common goals that allow our children to live better and safer lives.  This principled realism will guide our decisions moving forward. 

Degrading terrorists so that they may be compelled to negotiating table

Military power alone will not bring peace to Afghanistan or stop the terrorist threat arising in that country.  But strategically applied force aims to create the conditions for a political process to achieve a lasting peace.

Options for Pakistan

Not DO MORE, NOT NO MORE ….. But BETTER MORE …..

The writer contributes to different English Dailies and Magazines. He specializes in English Linguistics and Literature and teaches CSS and PMS English Essay and Précis papers at CSS PMS Knowledge Builders, a well-reputed forum for competitive exams students. He can be reached at saeedullahkhanwazircss@gmail.com

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