In announcing that he had chosen a strategy to approach the 16-year American military effort in Afghanistan Monday, President Donald Trump had some scathing words for Cold War ally 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,” President Trump told the assembled cabinet members, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines.
The remarks follow a progressive souring of American-Pakistani relations. In June, an Afghan commander accused Islamabad of providing “heavy weapons” to the Taliban. Perhaps in response to that and other incidents, the Pentagon has made serious cuts in its long-running military aid to Pakistan.
“Pakistan has 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,” Trump noted in the speech, already expected to be harsh on Pakistan. “It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace.”
Pakistan has long partnered with Islamists in Afghanistan and elsewhere to project power beyond its borders. The United States has often looked the other way to maintain the two countries’ long-standing military alliance. The issue came to a head most prominently in 2011 when Osama Bin Laden was found hiding in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
“[Pakistan] has much to lose by harboring criminals and terrorists … In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked together against common enemies,” Trump explained.
From the Indian partition and throughout the Cold War, it was Pakistan the United States favored over arch-rival and oft-times Soviet ally India for military and diplomatic aid. The relationship tightened further after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. On Monday, Trump had a very different message for India, a nation that has not strongly distanced itself from Russia after the fall of communism. He spoke of India in glowing terms, highlighting its status as the “world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States.”
“Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India,” Trump said, warning Pakistan directly of a potential American shift to their bitter nuclear rival. “We appreciate India’s 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.”
Trump hinted at a wider strategic shift to India, potentially against the shared perceived rising threat of China: “We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific region.”