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Does Pakistan Hold Any Cards in Dealing With Trump Administration?

The U.S. relationship with Pakistan has always been essentially transactional since the early days of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. What would the quid pro quo look like between Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the Trump administration in the current differences over America's new Afghan policy? Let's try and answer this question.

Transactional History: 

Aid and cooperation has been forthcoming whenever successive American administrations needed something from Pakistan and then suddenly stopped and sanctions imposed on Pakistan when the US goals were accomplished. This happened in 1960s, 1990s and likely to happen yet again now under the Trump administration.

The history of the relationship is such that Pakistan has often been described variously as "the most allied ally" and "the most sanctioned ally" in the last few decades.

Trump's Tough Talk:

U.S. President Donald Trump, a real estate developer, sees all bilateral and multilateral negotiations with other nations through the lens of his experience in real estate deals. The Trump administration has shown itself to be far more transactional with US allies than any previous administration. President Trump is now threatening to get tough with Pakistan after 16 years of Afghan war with no end in sight as the Taliban continue to expand influence in the country. There's talk in Washington about cutting off aid and possible sanctions on Pakistan yet again. What cards does Pakistan hold in any negotiations with the Trump administration? Can Pakistan play hardball with the United States?

Pakistan's Cards:

Speaking at an event organized by the Council of Foreign Relations in New York, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the following:

"... the (US) military assistance (to Pakistan) is very limited at the moment. In the past, if you want to do an accounting of the past, that can also be done. But I’m telling you that today, for example, over a million (US) sorties are flown by coalition aircraft through Pakistan territory, and we never bill for that. Millions of tons of (US) equipment moves through Pakistan territory on the ground. We never bill for that, because we believe in the war against terror. We supported that coalition, we continue to support efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan. So if we want to go back into history and start accounting for how many dollars were spent, Pakistan, as I said, post-9/11, the most conservative numbers: We lost $120 billion in economic growth."

US-Pakistan Negotiations:

If the Trump administration decides to cut whatever little aid Pakistan receives from the United States, Pakistan could demand significant fees for the use of Pakistani territory by the United States to supply its troops. If the US refuses, Pakistan could simply cut off the NATO supply route as it did back in 2011 after the Salala incident.

Summary:

Given the transactional nature of the relationships the Trump administration seeks, what would a transaction look like between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi? It could be in the form of Pakistan continuing to allow the use of its airspace and land routes to supply US troops in Afghanistan for substantial fees that could add up to more than the US aid to Pakistan today. If the US balks at it, Pakistan could simply cut off US supply routes as it did back in 2011 after the Salala incident.

Here's a discussion related to this subject:

https://youtu.be/HRG45PAHpWw




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Comment by Riaz Haq on September 25, 2017 at 7:40pm

US Senator Larry Pressler whose infamous Pressler Amendment forced Pakistan to diversify arms sources and seek self-reliance in arms production is BACK!

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-us-should-go-for-pre...

Suggesting that both India and the US conduct pre-emptive strikes inside Pakistan to destroy its nuclear sites (where weapons have either already been stored or are being made), former US Senator Larry Pressler told TOI on Monday that Donald Trump may turn out to be the best American president yet for India as he had recently put Pakistan on notice for harbouring terrorists.

But for this to happen, Trump would have to get around the Pentagon, which always encouraged Pakistan, he said. Such encouragement emboldened Pakistan to attack India as "the mother of terrorism" and "predator" at the UN general assembly session on Sunday, he added. Trump's description of the Pentagon as "a swamp" was a good sign, he noted, hoping the US president would drain it soon (as he'd promised).

A three-term Senator and twice a member of the House of Representatives, Pressler (75) authored the famous Pressler Amendment which in 1990 blocked US military aid to Pakistan when the then US President George H W Bush could not certify Pakistan was not developing nukes.

As the delivery of close to 30 F-16 aircraft to Islamabad was barred, Pressler, then a Republican and head of the Senate's arms control subcommittee, became something of a hero in India and, in his own words, "a devil in Pakistan." His new book, Neighbours in Arms, engagingly tells the story of the amendment and of the US foreign policy that enabled Pakistan to develop nuclear weapons and casts a severe spotlight on the culture of lobbying in Washington and the grip of the military-industrial state ("the Octopus") inside the US.

Pressler has long distanced himself from the Republican Party — he contested Senate polls as an Independent in 2014 and backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential polls — but despite differences with Trump, he feels the president is not doing half as badly as US media suggests.

Trump's warning to Pakistan on its sheltering and export of terror, linking of US aid to "action on terror" and his request to India to "help us more with Afghanistan" signalled a recasting of relations.
The ex-Senator hopes Trump will act on the notice.

"US must declare Pakistan a terrorist state, cut off all aid and must not treat India and Pakistan as equals. India is a democracy, Pakistan isn't. And Pakistan and especially the ISI have lied to us for decades," he said.

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