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American NSA’s tactlessness

Published Apr 20, 2017 06:56am


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ONCE inside Pakistan, the message was more positive and one that focused, at least publicly, on “strengthening bilateral relations” and “working with Pakistan to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan” and with India. But the damage had already been done outside Pakistan. US National Security Adviser retired Lt-Gen H.R. McMaster appears to have committed a classic beginner’s error when it comes to addressing the region. Or perhaps the administration of President Donald Trump, keen to sound tough, has made an early mistake. Either way, giving a media interview in Kabul and using that platform to, effectively, verbally attack Pakistan was an unnecessary move by Mr McMaster. It is worth recalling the crux of what he said: “We have hoped that Pakistani leaders will understand that it is in their interest to go after these [militant] groups less selectively … and the best way to pursue their interest in Afghanistan and elsewhere is … not through the use of proxies that engage in violence.” Translation: Pakistan is using militant proxies against Afghanistan and India.

Unsurprisingly, the Pakistani state hit back at the allegations and it appears the mood in GHQ is particularly sour after the American lecture. The attempts to speak more positively about Pakistan once inside the country by Mr McMaster amounted to damage control that may not have had much immediate effect. Confusing, contradictory messaging appears to have become an early Trump administration hallmark in a range of areas and, as in those other areas, it is not clear how they help further America’s interest or its relations with allies. To be sure, the Pak-Afghan relationship is a complex one, with both sides having legitimate grievances against the other. To speak of one side’s concerns and not the other’s is remarkable. To pour fuel on fire by alluding, while in Kabul, to alleged Pakistani militant proxies against India is staggering. If Gen McMaster does want to strengthen bilateral ties between Pakistan and the US, he has stumbled into a formula to achieve exactly the opposite.

Consider what the US has done on and in Afghanistan of late. After announcing an early boycott of the Moscow conference, the run-up to the conference was overshadowed by the ‘mother of all bombs’. The bomb may have targeted the militant Islamic State group, but it also opened new fissures in Kabul and split the government on ties with the US. Somehow, when IS is the one problem that unites virtually all national, regional and international powers involved in Afghanistan — from Pakistan to Afghanistan; from the US to the Afghan Taliban themselves; and from Russia to China — the US has found a way to attack IS in a way that has alarmed everyone else. The bomb underlined America’s military strength and major regional role; Mr McMaster’s comments hint at an ongoing, and worrying, lack of clarity in Washington.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2017


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Comments (17) Closed

d Patel Apr 20, 2017 03:41pm

Is this editorial suggesting that USA should have used the same narrative both in Kabul and Islamabad? ; and that the correct single narrative is the one that USA used in Kabul?

ga Apr 20, 2017 04:55pm

@d Patel - No. It's suggesting that the US should not lecture a nation that it desperately needs and it should also lecture other players lije Afghanistan and India that hold their own proxies as they have their own all over the Muslim world.

Your Apr 20, 2017 09:48pm

To me, its basic purpose is to convey that US has no clear-cut policy about Afghanistan or US' diminishing influence in Afghanistan.

Prakash Apr 20, 2017 09:55pm

To understand the problem-Truth must be spoken that is what US NSA has done in Kabul

Abraham haque Apr 20, 2017 10:58pm

@ga no those who take money from other should be ready to take whatever else comes with it, do not want lecture return the money we have taken for the last seventy years and don't want to hear about serving their interests

waqas khan Apr 21, 2017 12:29am

it all depends on reader what writer has been said to understand

AW Apr 21, 2017 12:40am

It seems that the US policy is clear and has been clear as well as the same since at least 20 years now. 3 Presidents have changed in Washington DC but policy is consistent. The only difference is that the Trump administration is articulating it truthfully, publicly, with clarity and without fancy diplomatic words. So where is the confusion?

Mumbai Man Apr 21, 2017 01:01am

The problem is shifting narrative of Pakistan, there has been no coherence on it, it begs understanding why Hafiz Saeed is in protective custody if the US narrative is wrong, it becomes easy to blame others, when the fault squarely lies at ones feet.

Mohammad aryubi Apr 21, 2017 02:14am

Suffice it to say, ground realities are bitter truths to swallow, and that,in this digit age, hiding facts is an impossible task to perform. Period

Mohammad aryubi Apr 21, 2017 03:09am

Undoubtedly, Gen McMaster's message to the Pakistani state is loud an d clear, so, it does not need any elaboration .

Abraham haque Apr 21, 2017 04:23am

@AW at least some of us are beginning to get honest about our problems caused by ourselves

daanish Apr 21, 2017 10:43am

US has never been an impartial negiotiater in any deals. She runs with its own interest and the defeat of US in afghan proxy war is its own doing. Do not blame others.

Samir lone Apr 21, 2017 11:15am

@Mumbai Man at least we haven't sent Saeed to wage terror in India the way you sent your navy officer turned spy Yadhav to target Pakistan A which now has backfired on India

Ashraf Apr 21, 2017 01:42pm

We must say no to US money and stand with China

Ashraf Apr 21, 2017 01:43pm

@Abraham haque Sadly its not PML N

Satyameva Jayate Apr 21, 2017 04:25pm

Instead of masking anything, American NSA did some plain speaking. It is for Pakistan to understand the meaning and things to come, and make a choice now. "NO" to Saudis couldn't last more than a few months. How long will "NO" to Americans last?

ASK Apr 21, 2017 07:22pm

USA is only trying to put blame on someone else for their failures in Afghanistan.

Their narrative is too obvious: USA (Almighty) is not successful beacuse of (some poor )ABC country !!