Implications of Trump’s strategic policy on Afghanistan and its impact on South Asia

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Trump's Afghanistan
On and Off the Battle Field

 

  • While campaigning for White House, US President Donald Trump had backed complete withdrawal of US security forces from Afghanistan. But after eight months of assuming his chair of US President, he announced his first much awaited comprehensive assertive policy on Afghanistan. Without giving any clear cut approach, he just announced to increase the combat capacity of US Army by 4000 which will increase the current level of 8500.
  • Many security and foreign affairs analysts have criticized this idea of increasing troop capacity. Some US lawmakers have denounced that President Trump is struggling to make clear cut strategy which will hamper the interest of USA in Afghanistan.
  • But it cannot be denied that his policy has potential to alter the volatile ground of war-torn region. If he will order to withdraw the troops then it will create a vacuum in region that will motivate Taliban, ISIS and Al-Qaeda to fill the region instantly.

Why is Afghanistan important?

  • USA alone has spent around $900 billion dollar in Afghanistan, out of which $115 billion has been spent on reconstruction.
  • At NATO summit held in Warsaw, it was agreed to maintain international troops presence in Afghanistan till 2020 while providing $4.5 billion annual support to Afghan security forces.
  • US maintained his troops under “Operation Resolute Support” to reconstruct the war-torn region and to establish an accountable government to restore peace and lead the nation towards prosperity.
  • US has understood that Pakistan is playing a significant role in destabilizing the region. Recent statement of President Trump has indicated that Pakistan has become a safe haven for extremists and terrorists.
  • Strategically the area plays a significant importance to balance the growing engagement of Pakistan and China.

Implications of Trump Policy on Afghanistan

  • The Afghan government has welcomed the continued engagement of USA in Afghanistan. It will help Afghan government to reconstruct the area more effectively.
  • Afghan officials are now happy that finally US administration has recognized Pakistan as a major threat – something which Afghan official has pointed out repeatedly.
  • Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani welcomed the continued engagement of US troops in his country. He knows that Afghans do not have a capable system yet to tackle the extremists and terrorists bankrolled and militarily supported by his next door neighbor Pakistan and some others.
  • But will Trump really put pressure on Islamabad? And more importantly, how will Trump made strategy to destroy the safe haven of terrorists and extremists?

Implications of Trump Policy on Pakistan

  • Naturally Pakistan is angered by Trump’s claims that it harbours terrorist which make it difficult for the USA to succeed in Afghanistan. The government and opposition parties of Pakistan have slammed USA over his policy and threaten them that Pakistan could choose to break the ties with Washington DC.
  • USA-Pakistan bilateral ties have become tense after killing of Osama-Bin Laden in Pakistani city of Abbottabad in 2011 by Navy Seal of USA. After trump’s speech, the differences have become official.
  • Some Pakistani analysts say that it would beneficial for Pakistan to keep Trump administration on its side. Pakistan has no intentions to interfere in Afghanistan but Islamabad is not happy with India’s engagement in Afghanistan and definitely intends to resists India’s growing interests there.
  • Pakistan knows that Washington’s reliance has been diminished, hence Islamabad has forged its relation closely with Beijing. Now China is investing heavily in Pakistan to develop China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which will help China to increase her supremacy in South Asia.

India’s Role in changing equation of USA in Afghanistan

  • India has already given $2 billion to Afghanistan for development assistance. Last year Indian PM Narendra Modi has announced a fresh $1 billion worth of aid, but it had no time limit to spending. This year, India has allotted $350 crore in her budget for 2017 – 18.
  • Experts have pointed out that India could provide direct budgetary assistance because Afghanistan is facing severe shortfall of revenue.
  • In statement President Trump has asked India to provide only economic and development assistance in Afghanistan which is already going on.
  • India has already taken leadership in building dams, highways and most importantly building of Afghanistan’s Parliament. Besides, India is also providing training and assistance in building Afghan bureaucrats and military personnel. India is providing support for building small scale industries and is giving scholarships to Afghani students to study and purse their career in India.

Conclusion

President Trump’s approach is being attributed as “Principled realism” which is in sync with his “America First”. India should wait and watch his detailed policy because Trump’s view was only a broad principle outlined in his speech.

Although Trump speech claims Pakistan as a safe haven for extremists and terrorists but it cannot help to counter the role of Pakistan, China and Russia etc. in volatile ground of Afghanistan. It is feared that the war-torn region can possibly again become a playground for these countries.

Many peace activists have suggested that India and Pakistan should not become a party to USA-China rivalry. They should avoid to become an active players in global strategic interest in Afghanistan. India will tread carefully in shifting sands in Afghanistan. Instead of rushing too closer with Washington, India should focus to develop its organic interests with Kabul.

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