Under President Trump, U.S. must be willing to declare Pakistan state sponsor of terrorism: Leading American expert

| Updated: Dec 09, 2016 13:32 IST

Washington D.C. [United States], Dec.9 (ANI): Under the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump, the United States must be willing to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, and in doing so, should also consider imposing sweeping and devastating sanctions against Pakistan's army to convince Islamabad to cease giving active support to various militant groups, feels a leading expert on Asian and South Asian affairs. In an article for the warontherocks.com web site, C. Christine Fair, associate professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, said, "Washington should provide a timeline of concrete steps that Pakistan must take against the various militant groups it now supports to curtail such a designation." Reflecting on the myriad policy challenges in South Asia for the incoming Trump administration, Fair suggests that for Washington not to go ahead with sanctions and withdrawal of aid, Pakistan, would have to as a first such step, cease active support for these groups and constrict their space for operations and recruitment. She also suggests in her article that "ultimately, Washington should demand the elimination of the (terror) remnants", but predicts that Pakistan "would not be willing to undertake such efforts." Dwelling on Pakistan, Fair says, "Despite the hullaballoo every time Pakistan gets a new army chief, there will never be any substantive changes in the civil-military relationship in Pakistan. For the foreseeable future, the Pakistan Army (will) call the relevant shots." Suggesting that Pakistan uses terrorism under its nuclear umbrella with impunity because it works to achieve its agenda of highlighting the "conflict" with India, and thus provoke calls for dialogue to resolve "outstanding differences," and thereby further legitimise Pakistan's territorial demands, Fair says, "The only way to motivate change is by developing a coercive campaign that diminishes the advantages of Pakistan's use of militant proxies under its nuclear umbrella while also increasing the costs of doing so." She says, "The United States has been unwilling to seriously revise its Pakistan policy because of the belief that American assistance and presence staves off state collapse or prevents further nuclear proliferation. Unfortunately, Pakistan has used American assistance to further develop the very assets - nuclear weapons and terrorists - that disquiet Americans the most." Fair further states in her article that so far Washington has underestimated the resilience of the Pakistani state and the low likelihood of its collapse should U.S. aid be terminated. "The United States will not likely be able to undertake any meaningful coercive policy if it continues to believe that its resources and those of its allies and multilateral organisations are staving off an otherwise likely collapse of the state," she warns, adding that the collapse of the Pakistan state is very unlikely despite this fear being commonly articulated by U.S. officials. "Washington must stop providing Pakistan with incentives to produce "good jihadist assets" while fighting "terrorists of the Pakistani state." As long as Pakistan has terrorists to kill, Washington will remunerate Pakistan handsomely to do so. Pakistan's army knows the United States would be less concerned about Pakistan were it not for these militant proxies. Yet Washington has failed to tell Pakistan clearly that it must stop producing new terrorists to pursue its regional goals. The United States should incentivise Pakistan to abandon Islamist terrorists as tools of foreign policy. Doing so will require political fortitude and risk-taking. The president-elect has at least demonstrated a penchant for the latter," Fair said. "Washington should not provide strategic weapons systems to Pakistan and deny the future supply of spare parts and lifetime maintenance. The sales of these systems were a grievous mistake. Withholding spare parts and maintenance could attenuate the outcome of poor decision-making in the past. However, the United States should remain willing to furnish platforms which are suited for counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations.. The United States should remain willing to provide police training and counter-insurgency training to Pakistan's security forces and other forms of assistance to Pakistan's shambolic justice system should Pakistan permit the United States to do so and should the United States be able to provide meaningful assistance to these organisations," she adds. Fair says that Washington has, with one exception, turned a blind eye to the massive human rights abuses perpetrated by Pakistan's security forces in Balochistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as other areas. Such insouciance, she adds fosters a culture of impunity in Islamabad. She suggests that the U.S. Congress should terminate security-related reimbursements to Pakistan. "The United States used to do this under the problematic Coalition Support Funds program and will likely provide reimbursements under a new program. Under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1373 (adopted in 2001), Pakistan is obligated to prevent and undermine the ability of terrorist groups from using their soil to organise, train, raise funds and recruits, and other necessary activities required to carry out attacks. It should not be compensated for undertaking its sovereign responsibilities," Fair says. The Pakistan Army has three persisting objectives. First, resist what it views as Indian hegemony in South Asia and beyond. Second, cultivate "strategic depth" in Afghanistan both to vitiate any Afghan ill-will towards Pakistan and to deny India any space from which it can destabilize Pakistan from Afghan territory. Finally, seize the portion of Kashmir currently administered by India. To secure these goals, Pakistan uses two tools. First, it has cultivated a menagerie of Islamist and non-Islamist militant groups acting as proxies on behalf of the state. Second, it has developed an ever-expanding nuclear arsenal that includes battlefield nuclear weapons. Pakistan relies upon proxies because they are inexpensive, able to subvert even the best defenses in India and Afghanistan, offer plausible deniability of state involvement, and generally limit the involvement of Pakistani security forces in direct engagement. Pakistan's military and intelligence personnel train, equip, and otherwise enable the operations of these groups and they help plan high-profile attacks. In some cases, retired personnel fulfill these roles and may even join a militant group. Pakistan's nuclear weapons enable Pakistan to use these proxies in several important ways. First, nuclear weapons raise the cost of any Indian punishment because they pose the risk that any conflict can escalate to nuclear use. Second, they coerce the international community to intervene after any Pakistan-sponsored terror attack in India to persuade India not to escalate. This essentially protects Pakistan from the consequences of its action. Third, they permit Pakistan to blackmail the international community to continue providing lucrative economic bailouts that allow the state to continue with these dangerous policies. "Washington must hold Pakistan to account per its own laws and per the relevant United Nations resolutions and other agreements to which Pakistan is a signatory. It must also work to ensure that countries that China do not protect Pakistan from the consequences of its actions," she concludes. (ANI)