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Trump’s Tilt

by Newsweek Pakistan

Win McNamee-Getty Images North America—AFP

Pakistan has the most to lose if the U.S. opts to pull out of Afghanistan

If U.S. President Donald Trump has his way on Afghan policy he would go for the “country’s abundant natural resources worth more than $1 trillion” in “untapped mineral resources in the form of copper, iron, and rare-earth metals.”

The United States wants out of the longest war abroad in its history, but if Trump could make money out of withdrawal he would go for it. But most experts in his administration realize that is a fool’s errand and want to stick it out; they also don’t want Erik Prince, the founder of the shadowy Blackwater organization, getting in on the act by deploying 5,500 “mercenary” contractors in Afghanistan that Prince claims could save “Trump $30 billion a year.” Unfortunately, the current U.S. president appears especially vulnerable to potential moneymaking opportunities, as demonstrated during his visit to the Middle East where he milked both Saudi Arabia and Qatar with a fresh supply of military hardware, all the while shouting “more jobs” to his alt-right audience back home.

America wants out of Afghanistan. Then-president Barack Obama began the process in May 2014, ordering scaling down of American troops to 9,800 by December from their peak of 100,000. The results have been disastrous. Afghanistan is now under threat from the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. Iran and India, too, are increasingly present with development projects and covert operations to forestall post-U.S. withdrawal fallout on them. Pakistan will, inevitably, be the most affected state after the Americans get up and leave, but is no longer in the loop of Washington’s policymaking.

Washington’s new strategy, being announced on Aug. 21, is expected to target Pakistan as the hostile factor reluctant to take action against the Haqqani Network, the mainstay of the Afghan Taliban now practically ruling half of Afghanistan. Pakistan, more focused on the “Indian presence” funding terrorist acts within its territory, can’t get close to Kabul as long it is seen aligned with the Modi government in New Delhi. Meanwhile, U.S. drone strikes have reportedly killed Haqqani Network affiliates inside Pakistani territory twice in recent times, encouraging those who want Washington to cut military aid to Pakistan.

The regional strategic map is shifting. With Pakistan finding succor in China through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, it’s likely Islamabad will be seen as a Chinese stronghold in the new developing cold war in Asia.

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