Khawaja Asif in the US

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 07.10.17

Pakistan seems to have travelled at least significant distance from the fetters of the
conspiracy theory nurtured and propagated by the General-Hamid-Gul school of thought
that the presence of the US in Afghanistan was not only to explore some hidden natural
resources in Afghanistan but it was also to establish a regional surveillance centre in
Afghanistan to look over the activities of Russia, China, and Pakistan.

In 2017, Afghanistan’s treasure troves of coveted natural resources still await an explorer
while Asia is still bald of a surveillance centre monitoring activities of the supposed counter-
balancing super powers of the world. One of the blessings of the conspiracy theory is that it
offers ample space to retired army officers to become defence analysts and adorn the
media talk shows, though it is beside the point that the monopoly enjoyed by these analysts
over the identification and exposition of any conspiracy leaves an educated Pakistani
flabbergasted. Supposedly, the intellectual ability developed in army’s training institutes has
to analyse a situation on the parameters of critical analysis instead of being driven by the
forces of ignorance and emotivism. The toll taken by the conspiracy theory was that
Pakistan got somehow convinced that the US was not serious about the purging of terrorist
and militant groups. Rather, all outcry raised by the US was a subterfuge to divert attention
of the regional target countries from the real motives of the US presence in the region.

On October 4, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif met with US Secretary
of State Rex Tillerson at the State Department in Washington and duly acknowledged two
important points. First, Pakistan shared with the US a common desire for peace and stability
in Afghanistan and the region at large. Second, Pakistan had “pursued a zero-tolerance
and an indiscriminate approach in its campaign against all terrorist and militant groups.”
When Pakistan says that it adopted an effort which was all inclusive (i.e. against all terrorist
and militant groups) excluding none, contrary to the force of any conspiracy theory,
Pakistan is acknowledging two things: first, the nuance imposing a division between a
militant group and a terrorist group; and second, the activities of these groups in the past.
At least, Pakistan has understood that no refuge is available in a conspiracy theory that
Pakistan was a victim of the clandestine objectives the US wanted to achieve in the region.

In essence, the South Asia policy of the US (announced by incumbent US President Donald
Trump on August 21) was a development over the Af-Pak policy of former US President
Barack Obama announced in March 2009. Khawaja Asif put the point across that,
compared to other countries, the decline in the incidences of terrorism in Pakistan was a
testament of Pakistan’s achievements in the war against terrorism. Moreover, instead of
reproach from the US, Pakistan needed an adequate recognition of its contributions and
consequent sacrifice in the war on terror. In response, to the gratification of Pakistan, US
Secretary Tillerson did acknowledge and appreciate the sacrifices rendered by Pakistan.
Interestingly, this was about the past. The past stood corrected. However, on August 21,
the utterance of US President Trump had called for “do more” which was embedded in the
future. The “do more” asking still stands its ground.

Interestingly, to the utter dismay of conspiracy peddlers, while briefing Congress on plans
to increase troops, US Defence Secretary James Mattis said on October 3 that, if the US
withdrew from Afghanistan, the US would be doing it at its own ultimate peril. That is,
withdrawing US forces from Afghanistan was not an option and considering to do that would
be tantamount to the undoing of the past constructed by US in Afghanistan. It is in the
background that the US wants to send an additional 3,000 troops to Afghanistan to train the
country’s security forces and to add to the existing strength of 11,000 US troops in
Afghanistan.

It is not yet understandable what problem Pakistan is faced with the expected addition of
another 3000 US troops in Afghanistan. That is, when Pakistan claims that it has taken
action against terrorist and militant groups active in Pakistan, what makes Pakistan object a
similar action taken by the US or Afghan troops on Afghanistan’s terrorist and militant
groups. Pakistan’s defence analysts do not answer this question. They are actually
overlooking the fact that in their voice against the build-up of US troops in Afghanistan lies
their two-pronged desire. First, there should be no increase in the US troops in
Afghanistan. Second, they were happy with the expansion of the influence of the Afghan
Taliban who claimed to have got control over about 40% of Afghanistan, especially in its
South-Eastern part, since the end of 2014.

Much to the dismay of the conspiracy school, Secretary Mattis briefed Congress Senators
with the words that the US was “in Afghanistan to make America safer and to ensure South
Asia cannot be used to plot transnational attacks against the US homeland or our partners
and allies.” This point indicates that the memory of 9/11 still haunts the US which is not
ready to prognosticate any new eventuality for the Taliban to take over Afghanistan and
offer sanctuaries to any al-Qaeda like organizations to repeat 9/11. The US has refused to
afford the repeat telecast of 9/11. It is not known what prompts Pakistan’s defence analysts
to wish for the departure of US forces from Afghanistan. Interestingly, on the one hand,
Pakistan claims that it has no control over the intent and will of the Afghan Taliban, whereas
on the other hand, Pakistan desires that the US forces leave Afghanistan on its own, at the
mercy of the Afghan Taliban.

In short, both Khawaja Asif and Rex Tillerson agreed on two things. First, they
acknowledged the efforts of Pakistan done in the past against the war on terror. Second,
they acknowledged the need for doing more by Pakistan on the anti-terrorism and anti-
militancy fronts.

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