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American aid cuts to Pakistan won’t change its policy toward terrorism

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American aid cuts to Pakistan

On Thursday, the State Department announced a freeze on most of Washington’s security aid to Pakistan. The decision won’t torpedo the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, as a rupture in relations would more likely result from a more drastic measure, such as designating Pakistan as a state sponsor of terror.

Still, a fragile partnership already on tenterhooks will now grow ever more tenuous, especially because cutting aid to the Pakistanis is unlikely to compel them to crack down on the terrorists that target American troops in Afghanistan. In other words, Pakistan won’t do what America wants it to do. That’s because Pakistan’s links to the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network, groups based in Pakistan that stage attacks in Afghanistan, serve longstanding national interests that are all but immutable.

Consider that these groups push back against the presence of Pakistan’s archenemy, India, in Afghanistan. The Taliban and Haqqani network may be fighting Afghan and American troops, but they’re also virulently anti-Indian and have attacked Indian targets in Afghanistan. Pakistan views India as an existential threat, and as the less powerful of the two, it must rely on asymmetric means to push back against India. Using non-state militant actors against its fearsome foe serves that purpose.
Additionally, Pakistan rightly believes U.S. forces will eventually leave Afghanistan. Amid the large-scale destabilization, including civil war, that may ensue, Pakistan wants to ensure it retains influence with and ties to the Taliban, arguably the most powerful non-state actor in Afghanistan. So the very terrorists that America wants Pakistan to eliminate are embraced by Pakistan as assets to be deployed against India, and as hedges against an eventual U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

For Pakistan, ties to terrorists amount to a strategic imperative. Being deprived of aid, even hundreds of millions of dollars of it, won’t change this calculus. It’s not as if the aid suspension will deliver a devastating blow to Pakistan. It can compensate by tapping into its deep security partnerships with Saudi Arabia and China. Pakistan has weathered previous U.S. aid suspensions, and this time around should be no different.

It’s hard to say what can be done to change Pakistan’s policy toward terrorists. The Trump administration has suggested it may resort to punitive actions that go beyond aid cuts. The implication is that draconian measures could eventually bring Pakistan to its knees and cause it to capitulate to U.S. demands.

These tough steps may include expanding drone strikes, revoking Pakistan’s non-NATO ally status, sanctioning Pakistani military officers with ties to terror, and designating Pakistan as a sponsor of terror. They could also entail non-security punitive measures such as getting the International Monetary Fund, where Washington enjoys strong influence, to stop providing lifelines, in the form of loans and bailout packages, to Pakistan’s fragile economy.

Yet, if provoked by these draconian policies, an outraged Pakistan may be inclined to tighten rather than ease its embrace of militants. It could help the Taliban and Haqqani Network intensify violence in Afghanistan. Indeed, for Washington, taking a harder line on Pakistan is risky business and could exacerbate the already-immense challenges of its warfighting efforts in Afghanistan.

Pakistan may contend it would be more willing to address U.S. concerns about terror if America helped advance Pakistan’s interests, such as by actively pursuing a solution to the Kashmir dispute, or by cutting back on its rapidly growing ties with India. In reality, because of its own interests, these are non-starters for Washington.

But this all amounts to putting the cart before the horse. For now, the Trump administration has restricted itself to suspending security assistance. In the coming days, expect angry statements from the Pakistani government, but perhaps not much else. Some analysts have suggested Pakistan may retaliate by shutting down the supply routes on its soil used by NATO vehicles to access Afghanistan. That is certainly possible.

However, Pakistan may also opt to hold its fire, preferring to keep its prime tool of leverage in reserve as a deterrent to forestall the possibility of Washington resorting to more draconian moves. For now, Pakistan may instead retaliate with softer measures, such as issuing fewer visas to Americans.

There are lessons in all of this, and particularly for members of Congress, including most recently Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who plans to introduce legislation to end aid to Pakistan. Aid cuts to Pakistan can convey strong messages of unhappiness about Pakistan’s policy toward terrorism, but they can’t be expected to induce changes in Pakistan’s behavior. In the context of U.S.-Pakistan relations, the core impacts of aid cuts are symbolic more than substantive.

So the best way to pitch a bill to Americans about ending aid to Pakistan is to emphasize the benefit not for U.S. foreign policy, but for the U.S. economy: It puts money back in the hands of the American taxpayer.

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America

United States Employment Rate will fall further: Fed

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Washington, April 16 (IANS) Economic activity “contracted sharply and abruptly” across all regions in the US as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday.

“The hardest-hit industries – because of social distancing measures and mandated closures – were leisure and hospitality, and retail aside from essential goods,” the Fed said in its latest survey on economic conditions, known as the Beige Book, based on information collected from its 12 regional reserve banks before April 6, Xinhua reported.

“All Districts reported highly uncertain outlooks among business contacts, with most expecting conditions to worsen in the next several months,” the Fed said.

The survey showed that employment declined in all districts as the COVID-19 pandemic affected firms in many sectors.

“Employment cuts were most severe in the retail and leisure and hospitality sectors, where most Districts reported widespread mandatory closures and steep falloffs in demand,” the survey said, adding severe job cuts were also widespread in the manufacturing and energy sectors.

“Contacts in several Districts noted they were cutting employment via temporary layoffs and furloughs that they hoped to reverse once business activity resumes. The near-term outlook was for more job cuts in coming months,” the survey said.

The survey noted that no district reported upward wage pressures, with most citing “general wage softening and salary cuts” except for high-demand sectors such as grocery stores.

“These trends were seen as reflecting weaker demand for many goods and services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the survey said.

The survey came after the Commerce Department reported earlier on Wednesday that US retail sales plunged in March by the most on record as the COVID-19 pandemic is starting to take a big toll on the US economy.

The US economy is expected to contract by 5.9 per cent this year, according to the World Economic Outlook (WEO) report released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday.

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New York statewide COVID-19 deaths surpass 10,000

Meanwhile, indicators including the rates of ICU admissions and intubations have gone down and the three-day-average rate of hospitalization basically reached a plateau, according to the governor.

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New York, April 14 : Governor of the US state of New York Andrew Cuomo said statewide deaths from COVID-19 rose to 10,056, adding “the worst is over if we continue to be smart” in coping with the novel coronavirus.

Cuomo on Monday said at his daily briefing that a total of 671 people passed away on Sunday due to the disease, a number much lower than in the past few days, Xinhua news agency reported.

Meanwhile, indicators including the rates of ICU admissions and intubations have gone down and the three-day-average rate of hospitalization basically reached a plateau, according to the governor.

“We are controlling the spread,” said Cuomo. “I believe the worst is over if we continue to be smart. I believe we can start on the path to normalcy,” he said.

He said he would be joined by several other governors of neighbouring states later on Monday to discuss how to reopening the economy in a coordinated way.

On Twitter, the governor said that any plan to reopen society must be driven by data and experts, not opinion and politics.

He said the objective is to ease isolation and increase economic activity without increasing the infection rate.

“We will learn from the warning signs from other countries. We will take every precaution. We will work together as a region,” he added.

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US now has highest COVID-19 deaths, surpasses Italy: Johns Hopkins

A total of 20,071 people have died of the disease among 519,453 confirmed cases in the country as of 4 p.m. local time (2000 GMT) on Saturday

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Washington, April 12 : The UnS has surpassed Italy as the country with the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the world as the fatalities as of Sunday reached 20,604, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

As of Sunday morning, Italy has reported 19,648 coronavirus deaths, placing it in the second position after the US, the data published by the university’s enter for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed.

The US also accounts for the highest number of confirmed cases with 529,887. Spain, where the number of confirmed infections stands at 163,027, is a distant second, followed by Italy with 152,271 cases.

New York state, the epicentre of the pandemic in the US, has recorded the most deaths in the country, 8,627, which is followed by New Jersey and Michigan with 2,183 and 1,276, respectively, the CSSE data showed.

A total of 32,001 patients in the country have recovered, it added.

US President Donald Trump’s administration, which earlier estimated that the pandemic would cause anywhere from 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the US, revised its projection downward this week to 60,000, reports Efe news.

Members of the White House coronavirus task force credit the more optimistic forecast to the success of the stay-at-home orders issued by 42 of the 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, covering around 316 million people.

Trump, who has repeatedly decried the economic cost of closing schools and businesses to contain the virus, said late last month that he hoped to re-open the country by Easter Sunday.

During Friday’s news briefing by the task force, Trump sought to reassure Americans that he would guided by medical experts as well as by recommendations from the “Opening Our Country Council” he plans to install next week.

“I want to get it open as soon as possible. The facts are going to determine what I do,” the president said.

“I’m going to have to make a decision, and I only hope to God that it’s the right decision. But I would say, without question, it’s the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make,” Trump said.

As of Sunday, the number of global coronavirus cases stood at 1,777,517, with 108,862 deaths, while 404,236 people have recovered.

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