United States President Donald Trump's latest broadside against Pakistan to mend its ways on the matter of giving state support to terror elements on its soil and elsewhere, or risk facing severe financial penalties and other punitive measures, needs to be backed up by action, feels a former American envoy to Afghanistan and the United Nations.
In an article written for the website nationalinterest.org, former Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad categorically states that "Since 9/11, Pakistan has consistently played a double game, providing just enough sporadic assistance in capturing members of Al Qaeda and logistical support for our (American) forces to give an impression of helpfulness, while at the same time harboring, training, and assisting violent extremist groups such as the Taliban and the Haqqani Network that have killed thousands of American, Coalition, and Afghan soldiers and an even greater number of innocent Afghan civilians."
Accusing Islamabad of following a "duplicitous policy" and maintaining that this has been the single most important factor preventing success against terror elements in Afghanistan, Ambassador Khalilzad suggests that six important steps need to be taken to end Islamabad's support for terrorists and insurgents to reduce the threat in and from the region, contain the pernicious violence and achieve the negotiated settlement of conflict in Afghanistan.
These are as follows:
First, sanction the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and individual Pakistanis who are involved in supporting insurgents and terrorists, including bans for them and their family members on travel to the United States and freezing of financial assets. US intelligence agencies have the ability to identify everyone playing a role in Pakistan's pro-terrorist programs, including senior officials. The United States should also designate key figures as supporters of terrorism. Washington should end Pakistan's status as a major non-NATO ally, a designation that provides benefits such as preferential access for military technology and sales. We should also suspend all military assistance including military support funds.
Second, undertake unilateral US military strikes on insurgent targets in Pakistani territory. While the United States has targeted Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban with drone and other strikes, it has only on rare occasions attacked insurgents operating against the Coalition and Afghanistan. This has given such groups a free hand.
Third, prepare to designate Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism unless it changes course and abandons support for terrorists Such a designation will impose ongoing restrictions to assistance, bans on defense exports and sales, limitations on exports of dual-use items, and other financial restrictions.
Fourth, suspend our economic assistance to Pakistan. This should include not just bilateral assistance but also multilateral assistance through institutions such as the IMF and World Bank, where the United States has major decision-making power. Also, the Treasury should prepare a campaign of escalating financial sanctions, like those imposed on Iran before the nuclear deal, that will curtail Pakistani access to the international financial system. The United States should encourage allies and partners around the world including Saudi Arabia-which has strong ties with Pakistan-to do the same. China has been supporting Pakistan to gain leverage against India and access to the Arabian Sea. We should press Beijing to make its support conditional on Islamabad ending its support for terrorists and extremists.
Fifth, together with the major regional victims of Pakistan's actions, including Afghanistan and India, we should hold Islamabad accountable before regional and international organisations.
Sixth and lastly, it will be important to reach out to the people of Pakistan and document Pakistan's support for terrorists and extremists that has brought about the change in our approach to their country. We should make it clear that we look forward to cooperation and partnership with Pakistan once its government abandons its policy of support for terror and extremism.
Following these six steps, he believes will finally bring relief to the people of that country and allow American troops to come home.
Ambassador Khalilzad states, "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."
He adds, "The Pakistani military leaders probably believe that the United States once again will get distracted by other crises and that US officials will ultimately be sufficiently fooled by the occasional helpful action to let Pakistan continue to get away with its double game. However, his tweet indicates that President Trump seems prepared to break with this pattern."
He concludes by saying that the curtailing of Pakistan's support to insurgents will result in a definitive reduction of the conflict in Afghanistan.
"With reduced levels of violence, Afghan forces should be able to handle the residual violence, greatly reducing the burden on US and Coalition forces.