American Policy Expert sees US-Pakistan relations more complicated


Washington, Jan. 6 (TNS): Michael Kugelman is deputy director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington assessed what lies ahead for relations between Islamabad and Washington after U.S. President Donald Trump said his country received “lies and deceit” after giving Pakistan more than $33 billion in assistance since 9/11.

In an interview with Radio Mashaal, Michael Kugelman said that it is unclear exactly what the U.S. is expecting Pakistan to do. But as I understand it, the U.S. wants Pakistan to essentially sever its [ties] to Haqqani network fighters, and it is also expecting that those individual Pakistan intelligence and military [personnel] especially known to have ties with groups should basically be sanctioned by Pakistan. The broader expectation is that Pakistan would simply stop dealing with terrorists targeting the United States in Afghanistan.

Kugelman further said the mood on Capitol Hill is much more hostile toward Pakistan. “I am hearing a lot of criticism coming from Congress. There will be much more support than there used to be for the idea of an extended if not a permanent aid cut. And it was only yesterday [January 4] that Senator Rand Paul said he will be coming up with a bill for a ban on future aid to Pakistan”, he added.

To a query on Pakistan’s status as a non-Nato U.S. ally, Kugelman said that this is one of the possible measures that I heard the U.S. may take next. If you look at the U.S. policy tool kit, there are several things they could do to tighten screws more. And certainly revoking the non-NATO ally status could be on the table. I don’t know if that is imminent, [but] I certainly think it’s a possibility.

When asked how aid cut would impact Pakistan’s economy, Kugelman said that Pakistan has gone without U.S. aid before. It can look to the Chinese and Saudis. There are many other options [for] the U.S.; they can revoke the non-NATO ally status; there is the possibility of expanding the drone war into Balochistan and other places where top U.S. terrorist targets are located; it could also involve placing sanctions on individual Pakistani military and intelligence officials.

It depends on how each country responds to this aid cut. If Pakistan comes out with angry statements, the relationship would settle into a typical uneasy status of coexistence. If Pakistan has to retaliate with closing the NATO supply routes, that could make things worse. More importantly, the U.S. itself takes additional measures such as those I mentioned before. Pakistan would definitely retaliate to those and there could be a really big crisis. I don’t think the relationship is going to fall apart. But much more depends on how each side responds in the coming days and weeks and what additional measures would be taken by the U.S., and I think that would help determine the trajectory” he concluded.