Deteriorating ties with the US | Pakistan Today

Deteriorating ties with the US

Why Trump’s decision to shut military training programs for Pakistan is a bad move

The Trump administration has decided to cut various military training programs which the country has been offering to the Pakistani military officials for decades. The military training and educational programs which have previously survived fraught bilateral relations between the two countries have reportedly been axed as part of Trump’s policy to take punitive measures against Pakistan for not changing its regional security policy which Washington believes is counterproductive to its own policy in Afghanistan and the broader region.

The decision of cutting security-related training programs have been widely criticized as a naïve and irrational move which would only further isolate the US’s position and influence over Pakistan. What the current administration in D.C. needs to understand is this: if the any country continues to use its influence over another without building any more avenues of influence, then the latter would get to a phase where it becomes more independent and offers the space reserved for the former to some other country. Consequently, any such policy measure would only result in the US losing some of its influence over Pakistan when the latter starts looking elsewhere to fill the void. This is a terrible policy measure which the White House famously calls “Punish Pakistan” and expects to generate results for its own failed policies in the region.

While Pakistan would like such educational programs to continue in the US, the former will only learn more about the latter’s behavior which it has always described as unreliable and defective. Here is how the latest decision of the US is going to hurt Washington’s interests in the region rather than Pakistan.

This is a terrible policy measure which the White House famously calls “Punish Pakistan” and expects to generate results for its own failed policies in the region

First, Washington has already cut its military aid for Pakistan which has not made much of a difference when it comes to forcing Pakistan’s hand. The decision of cutting military assistance or economic packages have never worked internationally when such decisions are aimed at forcing a state into making changes into their core national security interests. What such decisions do, on the other hand is that they offer lessons for the affected states when it comes to similar scenarios. Here is what the leadership in Pakistan may have learned after the recent aid cuts and the latest decision to shut US’s educational institutes for Pakistani military officials: the recent aid cut was taken as a decision that not only reinforced its longstanding position of working on its regional policy to safeguard its interests but also in a way have encouraged the country toward exploring more avenues to diversify its security relations in the region and beyond. The most recent decision of cutting educational programs for the Pakistani security community is a decision which doesn’t make sense even in terms which can be called naive. One, states that go through a trajectory such as Pakistan and the US, always keep training programs of this nature alive regardless of how bad their bilateral relationship may be. As a whole, such programs are strategic in nature and offer insights into each other’s working patterns and institutional decision-making approaches. While the Pakistani security community does appreciate the learning and rigor which the US military institutions offer, the decision will only add towards isolating D.C.’s ability to build contacts with young officers which in a decade or so would have decision making powers. That’s a net ‘loss’ for the US which should not have been an action on the table as it equates to the White House only pushing Pakistan away.

Second, the decision of shutting military educational in states for Pakistan is only going to create rifts in D.C.’s strategic community when it comes to the current White House’s reckless policy toward Pakistan. Its already clear that the States Department and other security institutions in the US have lobbied to keep such programs alive even at times when both countries’ bilateral relations were hit by major phases of distrust and confusion. Such avenues of cooperation should not become a negotiation tactic as they are soft contracts in nature and continue beyond the state level squabbling. While Pakistan’s security community would want to continue having a working relationship with the U.S. and such programs are one way of keeping leverage on both sides, shutting Pakistan out would only undermine D.C. and reduce security cooperation with Pakistan.

An official in the US’s policy community informed me that the decision was made more than a month ago and the latest group of the Pakistani officers couldn’t join the programs due to this decision which was made public a few days ago. Pakistan has already signed an agreement with Russia to train its military officials and are also exploring options with China which show that Pakistan is not in a mood to plead on issues where bilateral gains are of the strategic nature.

The White House needs to rectify this ill-advised assessment at the earliest!

Umair Jamal

Umair Jamal is a graduate of the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University. He is a research fellow with the Centre for Governance and Policy. He regularly writes for various media outlets. He can be contacted on Twitter: @UJAmaLs.

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