Jaipur, Jan 27 (PTI) President Donald Trump’s warning of getting tough on Pakistan will not happen as the US needs Islamabad as long as there are American troops in Afghanistan, noted American journalist and author Peter Bergen has said.
In a blistering attack on Pakistan, Trump had on January 1 last year accused Islamabad of giving nothing to the US but “lies and deceit” and providing “safe haven” to terrorists in return for USD 33 billion in aid over the last 15 years while “fooling” American leaders.
In September last year, the Trump administration cancelled USD 300 million in military aid to Islamabad for not doing enough against terror groups like the Haqqani Network and the Taliban active on its soil.
“As long as there are American troops in Afghanistan, the US needs Pakistan. The US policy makers should accept this fact. Donald Trump’s talk of getting tough on Pakistan is not going to happen,” Bergen, who serves as CNN’s national security analyst, said Saturday at the Jaipur Literature Festival.
“If the upcoming Afghan elections prove to be a fiasco like the previous two elections, then it will be easier for President Trump to say why are we here (Aghanistan) when we haven’t been able to put up a genuine and stable government,” he said while participating in a discussion with former National Security adviser Shivshankar Menon and Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist, author and academic Steve Coll.
Bergen said the notion that the US was in Afghanistan for the commercial interest is “ludicrous” and described as “non-sense” the theory that terrorists are acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
He also said if there were another attack like the 26/11 Mumbai attack, India would have to respond.
Bergen said the US has a “very confusing policy” on Afghanistan.
“If you are negotiating with the Taliban whose principal demand is the troop withdrawal and the Trump administration has already announced to pull out the American troops, what is the US getting in return? It’s pretty confusing right now, he said.
In a sudden move, President Trump last month announced his decision to pull around half of the 14,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan. The move stunned and dismayed the US allies, diplomats and officials in Kabul.
The announcement came during a renewed push for talks with the Taliban to end the 17-year war.
In September last year, the Trump administration had appointed former US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad as special envoy to Afghanistan to create the opportunities to get the Afghans and the Taliban to come to a reconciliation. He has visited Pakistan, India and Afghanistan to try to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
Echoing Bergen’s view, Coll said it was a “confusing environment” while adding that Afghanistan’s domestic politics is inevitably unstable.
Lauding the Afghan government for its resilience, he said it was remarkable to see how it has sustained itself in the challenging environment.
“I have been hearing this year after year that the Taliban will take over within one year. There’s something resilient about the Afghan State. One can say it is not sustainable and may be it will collapse in six months, but the fact that it has sustained itself under such extraordinary pressure for 5-6 years ought to get our attention. There is something going on there,” he said.
Coll, who is currently the dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, said Pakistan never supported al-Qaeda but the Taliban.
“The ISI as an institution became an important state within Pakistan in the 1980s as a result of the collaboration between the CIA, ISI and the Saudi intelligence during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The USA ran the ISI against the Soviets.
“The ISI is inseparable from the Pakistan’s military. It is not a rogue organisation, it is not even an independent intelligence service, it is commanded by a three-star General, then there are groups and clients like militants in Kashmir. But the central structure is inseparable from the Pakistani military,” he said.
Coll’s new book Directorate S on the CIA and America’s secret wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan during 2001-2016 was also discussed during the session.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.