Pakistan’s Nuclear Terrorist Threat


US worried Pakistan’s Nuclear-weapons could land up in terrorists’ hands: Official – The Economic Times
PTI
WASHINGTON: The Trump administration is worried that nuclear weapons and materials in Pakistan could land up in the hands of terror groups and the concerns are aggravated by the development of tactical weapons, a senior US official has said.
The senior Trump administration official said that during a compressive review, one of the major issues that continually came up for discussion and is very important to the US was the nuclear danger in the region.
That is a critical element of the South Asia strategy, the official told reporters during a conference call.
The Trump administration is worried that nuclear weapons and materials in Pakistan might land up in the hands of terrorist groups or individuals, the senior administration official said, on condition of anonymity.
The South Asia strategy announced by US President Donald Trump on Monday notes that the “nuclear weapons or materials could fall” into the wrong hands, the official said.
“It (South Asia policy) also prioritises the escalating tension between India and Pakistan, the two nuclear power countries, and looks for ways to de-escalate the tension between the two to avoid any potential military confrontation among them,” the official said.
“We are particularly concerned by the development of tactical nuclear weapons that are designed for use in battlefield. We believe that these systems are more susceptible to terrorist theft and increase the likelihood of nuclear exchange in the region,” the Trump administration official said.
The official said it was due to this that the strategy also focuses on confidence building measures between India and Pakistan and encourages them to come to the negotiating table.
The danger of nuclear weapons was also mentioned by Trump in his Afghanistan and South Asia policy speech on Monday.
“For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict. And that could happen,” he had said in his first prime time televised address to the nation.
In an article published in ‘War on the Rocks’, Christopher Clary, who worked on the South Asia policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defence from 2006 to 2009, said Pakistan likely possesses more than 100 nuclear weapons today and might possess fissile material for up to 200 or 300 nuclear weapons.
“The US presence in Afghanistan is primarily about preventing terrorist groups operating there, but there is some reporting that suggests elements of the US government are wary of losing basing in Afghanistan that is useful to monitor Pakistani terrorist groups and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development efforts,” Clary said.
Stephen Tankel, an American expert, said the US has two vital security interests in Pakistan — ensuring militants in the region do not attack the US homeland and keeping militants from getting their hands on nuclear material.
“America also has a critical interest in preventing Indo-Pakistani nuclear escalation and terrorist attacks against US persons and infrastructure in the region,” Tankel recently wrote for Center for a New American Security.
“Maintaining a sufficient counter-terrorism presence in Afghanistan has been a cornerstone of the broader US counter- terrorism policy. This, in turn, has required ensuring the Afghan government retains sufficient control over its territory,” he said.
Pakistan is developing tactical nuclear-capable ‘Nasr’ ballistic missiles for battlefield use in order to deter a limited Indian military response to terrorist attacks by Pakistan-supported militants, he wrote.
“The common concern about Pakistani nuclear weapons is that they are vulnerable to internal threats. In reality, these weapons are most likely to fall into terrorists’ hands if forward-deployed during a conflict with India,” Tankel said.
“Even some Pakistani analysts recognise that it would be difficult for the Pakistan military to ensure the full security of these weapons once they were deployed in the field,” he said.

We Are Missing the Prelude to the First Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

Pakistan democracy at risk after removal of Nawaz Sharif

Nyshka Chandran
The same laws used to dismiss Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could effectively be applied to other lawmakers, spelling potential political upheaval and a stronger military — unsavory scenarios for the nuclear power’s fragile democracy.
Last Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed the 67 year-old on a failure to announce income in disclosure papers for 2013’s general election. According to the Supreme Court statement, the former prime minister demonstrated dishonesty by not declaring monthly salary of roughly $2,700 from Dubai-based Capital FZE — a company owned by his son — during 2006 to 2014.
The judicial body based its decision on Article 62 of the Constitution and Section 99 of the Representation of the People Act — little-used legislation that require truthfulness and honesty from elected officials.

Political infighting expected

While Friday’s decision was hailed as a rare example of accountability in a graft-stricken nation, the fact that such vague laws were used to remove Sharif could trigger infighting between political parties, strategists warned.
“Having used these clauses to oust the prime minister, the court may have opened Pandora’s box,” Moeed Yusuf, associate vice president, Asia Center, United States Institute of Peace, said in a recent note. “Sharif’s allies have already started bringing charges against their political opponents under the same article; other such cases are sure to follow.”

“Having used these clauses to oust the prime minister, the court may have opened Pandora’s box.”

Dirty politics, nepotism, and cronyism is rampant in the South Asian economy, ranked 116th in Transparency International’s list of 176 corrupt nations, which means numerous lawmakers could be removed under Article 62.
The court itself has previously referred to the law as a “nightmare” given the difficulty in objectively defining the terms, Yusuf said.
“The fact that Sharif was disqualified on the grounds of Article 62 is potentially very problematic because more than half the current parliament and members of the provincial assemblies could be disqualified on the same grounds,” echoed Rafiullah Kakar, an assistant research officer at the Commonwealth Young Professionals Programme, in a note published by the London School of Economics.
That could spark the purging of an entire political class, which could create a vacuum that would likely be filled by non-democratic forces, he added.

Military to benefit

During the 1990s, friction between Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League and the opposition Pakistan People’s Party eventually paved the way for 1999’s military coup — many now fear a repeat of history. The army, experts said, is a clear winner from Friday’s ruling.
“The army gains by discrediting the civilian government. A weakened and humiliated civilian government ensures that public support for the armed forces will remain high as it emerges, once again, as the more competent institution,” said Shailesh Kumar, senior Asia analyst at consultancy Eurasia Group.
But despite its advantageous position and history of coups, the military isn’t expected to take power anytime soon.
“In decades past, if a civilian leader was abruptly removed, the expectation would be that the army would swoop in to restore order — yet today, no serious observer of Pakistan expects the military to seize power,” Michael Kugelman, South Asia deputy director and senior associate at the Wilson Center, said in a Tuesday note.
“Of course, given the deep clout that the military already enjoys behind the scenes, it has no need to take power directly and likely no desire either, given the arguably unprecedented non-security policy challenges, such as severe water shortages and a serious energy crisis, that afflict present-day Pakistan.”
Eurasia Group also said it expects the powerful army to stay on the sidelines amid the current government turmoil.
Friday’s ruling followed a months-long investigation into the Sharif family’s offshore wealth, which was sparked by allegations of money laundering in 2016’s Panama Papers. The Supreme Court has also ordered a criminal probe into the family based on the Panama Papers’ claims.

The Devolving Pakistani Nuclear Horn (Daniel 8)


Pakistan’s Generals Strike Again: Sharif’s Ouster Is a Scary Shake-Up
Bruce Reidel
The most dangerous country in the world just got even more unstable.
The recent demise of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is a victory for the country’s generals who despise Sharif for being “soft” on India and seeking peace in Afghanistan. His brother Shahbaz will replace Nawaz but faces a country in turmoil and must first win a by-election to parliament to take on the job.
Make no mistake: Instability in Pakistan is dangerous for the United States and for the world. Pakistan has the fastest growing nuclear weapons program in the world, along with intermediate-range ballistic missiles, American supplied F16 jets, and is developing tactical nuclear weapons.
In Pakistan’s 70-year history, no prime minister has ever served a full term in office; all 18 attempts have left short of time. Sharif has been prime minister three times over the last three decades and has been removed from office each time. His administration this time had the distinction of being the first elected government ever to replace a previously elected government by the ballot box.
The Supreme Court ousted Sharif due to a corruption scandal that emerged more than a year ago, when the so-called Panama Papers were leaked. Investigators found that Sharif’s family had sizable amounts of money and assets in London, including four luxury flats that allegedly had been purchased with illegal proceeds. A Joint Investigation Tribunal dominated by the army concluded that the family had assets far beyond their income and recommended the case to Pakistan’s Supreme Court.
A key part of Sharif’s defense rested on the testimony of the former Qatari prime minister, Hamid bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani (HBJ). HBJ was a business partner of Sharif and has provided written evidence to corroborate Sharif’s claims about how he legitimately acquired the London properties. But the tribunal rejected the Qatari’s letters.
In the end the Supreme Court convicted Sharif on a technicality: He had failed to report to parliament a work permit he had obtained while in exile that facilitated travel to the United Arab Emirates. The court referred all the other charges against the prime minister and his daughter and two sons for further judicial review. So the case will drag out for months.
Nawaz reportedly wants his younger brother Shahbaz to fill out his five year term before elections next year. Shahbaz has been governor of Punjab province, the nation’s most populous, and is a competent and successful executive. The family dominates the ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), and has a strong majority in parliament. It’s two largest rivals led by Imran Khan and Bilawal Bhutto can not block the PML’s choice. But Shahbaz must first win election to the parliament which will take a month or more. In the interim a former oil minister, Shahid Khasan Abbasi, will be the temporary prime minister.
I first met Shahbaz when he came to Washington in 1999 to warn the Clinton White House that then Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf was planning a coup to oust his brother. We listened sympathetically but couldn’t stop a coup in a nuclear weapons state. After the coup took place the brothers lived in exile in Saudi Arabia for almost a decade. The army wanted them never to return, but Musharraf was driven out of power by a popular movement.
The army is the most powerful institution in Pakistan and has a long history of removing prime ministers that its leadership dislikes. Sharif has been in the army’s crosshairs since he accepted President Bill Clinton’s call for a unilateral cease fire during the 1999 Kargil war with India. When Sharif pulled back Pakistani troops in the ceasefire, he set the stage for the coup that ousted him months later, which Shahbaz predicted. He was able to return only after the 2007 collapse of General Musharraf’s dictatorship. From exile Musharraf now has hailed the supreme court decision as “historic.”
Nawaz Sharif’s fitful attempts to improve Pakistan’s troubled relations with India since the 1990s lie at the core of the army’s dislike for him. Nawaz and Shahbaz are more interested in economic growth than pursuing Pakistan’s vendetta with India. Nawaz has also sought to persuade the Afghan Taliban to negotiate with the government in Kabul, a stance that the army opposes as well. Sharif has kept Pakistan out of the Saudi war in Yemen for over two years, producing serious strains in Pakistan’s ties to Riyadh, and more recently he has been neutral in the Qatari dispute with the kingdom.
The military is also among the most corrupt institutions in the country. Officer pensions are very generous. Musharraf lives in Dubai with an extensive portfolio. The army is the nation’s biggest property developer with large holdings in the cities, including 35 square kilometers of sea front in Karachi. Several large trusts are run by the army, with billions in assets.
In addition to the threat it poses as an unstable nuclear power, Pakistan is a patron—and victim—of terrorism.
It is home to numerous terrorist organizations, including Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, the Haqqani network, al Qaeda’s emir Ayman al-Zawahiri as well as Osama bin Laden’s son, Hamza bin Laden. It has been the target of dozens of terrorist attacks by the Pakistani Taliban. Some 55,000 Pakistanis have been casualties of terrorism in the last decade.
The border with India is tense after a series of violent incidents. The two have fought four wars. There are no direct air flights between Islamabad and New Delhi.
Pakistan is also China’s closest ally, and Sharif is responsible for negotiating an enormous $50 billion development deal with Beijing.
The Trump administration is still reviewing U.S. policy toward Pakistan. Since 2001 the U.S. has provided over $30 billion in aid to Pakistan, but the Congress has become much more reluctant to approve military assistance since Osama bin Laden was killed in a safe house just outside the Pakistani equivalent of West Point in Abbottabad in 2011.
The president avoided a bilateral meeting with Nawaz Sharif when they both were in Saudi Arabia in May, which has been interpreted in Islamabad as a signal of cooling ties.
The corruption scandal is outside of Washington’s influence, but how it plays out will have significant consequences for South Asia and beyond. Opening a high-level dialogue with the new prime minister would be a prudent step. Washington should avoid the temptation to deal directly with the generals, that is a path to failure.

Risk of Terror from the Pakistani Horn (Daniel 8)

Exit comes amid U.S. concerns over terror – INTERNATIONAL

HELENE COOPER WASHINGTON, July 30, 2017 00:00 IST Updated: July 30, 2017 03:42 IST
In most countries where the United States has national security interests, the toppling of a Prime Minister would prompt hurried meetings in Washington and concern over how the change in government will affect U.S. strategy in the region.
But not so with Pakistan. The resignation of Nawaz Sharif raised eyebrows at the State Department and the Pentagon, but little else. The Pakistani military is largely viewed as the real source of power in Islamabad, and that is not going to change with a new Prime Minister.
Still, Mr. Sharif’s removal comes as the White House is trying to determine a strategy for Afghanistan that officials say has stalled amid concerns about how to deal with Pakistan, where both the Taliban and the Haqqani network have a sanctuary. The White House has held up a Pentagon request to send additional troops to Afghanistan while officials grapple with how much pressure to put on the Pakistani government to crack down on the groups.
‘No key action’
The Pakistani government has “failed to take significant action” to prevent those groups from threatening U.S. and Afghan forces in neighbouring Afghanistan, the State Department said last week in a report on terrorism. And Pentagon officials are withholding $50 million in military reimbursements to Pakistan for the fiscal year that ended in October 2016, signalling displeasure with Islamabad’s failed efforts against the Haqqani network, a ruthless wing of the Taliban based in Pakistan.
Taliban’s sneak attack
U.S. and Afghan officials are still raw from a Taliban sneak attack in April that killed more than 160 soldiers at an Afghan military base in northern Afghanistan’s Balkh province, the single deadliest Taliban assault of its long war against Afghan forces.
Blaming the attack on the Haqqani network, U.S. military officials said the attack, which led to the firing of Afghanistan’s Defence Minister and the Afghan army’s chief of staff, was planned over four to six months and was too sophisticated and calculated to have been conducted by other branches of the Taliban.
Mr. Sharif’s exit means that General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Pakistani army’s chief, assumes an even bigger role. For some in U.S. security circles, that is a relief. The military has always controlled the country’s nuclear arsenal, and stability within that military structure means fewer worries that amid the country’s political turmoil, its nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands.NYT

Instability in the Pakistani Horn

Why the ousting of the Pakistan prime minister is such a big deal
Stockbyte | Getty Images
Luke Graham
Pakistan is likely to face serious political and economic instability after the country’s three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is ousted from power by the Supreme Court following a corruption investigation into his family’s wealth.
“He is no more eligible to be an honest member of the parliament, and he ceases to be holding the office of prime minister,” Judge Ejaz Afzal Khan said in court, Reuters reported.
But the nuclear-armed country is now set for political uncertainty with no clear successor in place.
Why has Nawaz Sharif resigned?
Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled on Friday morning to disqualify Sharif, along with the country’s finance minister Ishaq Dar, from power. Sharif also faces a corruption trial after investigators said his family could not account for its wealth. Sharif resigned shortly after the ruling.
The allegations relate to the 2015 “Panama Papers,” which revealed three of Sharif’s children had links to offshore companies which owned properties in London, according to BBC reports.
The court’s decision is a victory for the rule of law, according to Timothy Ash, emerging markets senior sovereign strategist at BlueBay Asset Management.
“Politicians have been brought to account in Pakistan – can the same be said for many emerging markets, e.g. Ukraine and South Africa. On the latter we talk a lot about the strength of South African institutions, but have any major politicians been brought to account for stuff that is not dis-similar, even worse, than this?” he said in an email to CNBC.
Ash said the ruling is a credit to Pakistan, even though it raises questions over the country’s political stability.
Will this affect the U.S.?
The ruling will make it more difficult for the U.S. to find a solution to the war in Afghanistan, says Wali Aslam, senior lecturer in international security at the University of Bath.
“High-ranking military and civilian officials in Washington have recently been reiterating the significance of Pakistan in resolving the conflict. In his recent visit to the region, Senator John McCain said, ‘We will not have peace in the region without Pakistan,’” he said in a press statement.
Aslam warns Pakistan’s relations with the U.S., China and India could be disrupted now Sharif is gone.
Who will take over from Sharif?
Sharif has been prime minister of Pakistan three times: from 1990 to 1993; from 1997 until 1999; and since July 2013. Pakistan’s prime minister is the chief executive of the country, with the power to form a cabinet, assign government ministers and control the country’s nuclear weapons.
Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), will get to choose the next prime minister, at least until the elections in the summer of 2018, according to Daniel Salter, head of equity strategy and head of research for Eurasia at Renaissance Capital. There may be infighting within the party, he warns.
“Nawaz’s daughter, Mariam Nawaz Sharif, who was being groomed as potential successor was also caught up in the (corruption) case: local sources seem to assume the army may have given its support to this ruling, perhaps to prevent the Sharif dynasty becoming overly powerful,” Salter said in a note.
With Sharif’s daughter compromised, Salter says the most likely successors are Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, speaker of the national assembly; Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, minister of petroleum; Khurram Dastgir Khan, commerce minister; and Khawaja Muhammad Asif, defense minister. He adds that Sharif may try to guide the party from the background.
The defence minister or railway minister Khawaja Saad Rafique are the most likely successors, says Asad Ali, Asia country risk analyst at IHS Markit, but he warns there’s risk of a split within the party.
“An official split in the PML-N ahead of the election would fracture the party’s vote bank in Punjab,” he told CNBC via email.
What does this mean for the economy?
Sharif’s ousting will weaken PML-N’s chances of winning the election in 2018. The party is Pakistan’s most investment-friendly and pro-business party, according to Ali.
“Since it came to power in 2013, Pakistan’s key economic indicators have gradually improved due to better economic management while foreign investment has slowly picked up”, Ali said.
Pakistan’s all-share stock exchange fell sharply on the news, falling by 1.6 percent, but bounced back to finish up 44 points on Friday.
The country’s currency is also vulnerable, according to Daniel Salter.
“The Pakistani rupee has been vulnerable in recent months, overvalued on our REER (real effective exchange rate) metric. The currency had a mini sell off in early July which was quickly reversed and the central bank governor replaced,” he said.
“The current account has been worsening, FX reserves falling and exports contracting. We had assumed the government would keep the currency supported and allow weakening post-election.”
The Supreme Court ruling has increased uncertainty ahead of Pakistan’s next election, Salter cautions.
Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.

Isolating the Pakistani Nuclear Horn

https://i0.wp.com/ilm.com.pk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/terrotinpakistan1.jpg
Washington’s big mistake in isolating Pakistan
Since March, Congressman Ted Poe has introduced a bill to designate Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism followed by one to strip Pakistan of its major non-NATO ally (MNNA) status, and a funding amendment that would withhold reimbursements to the Pakistani military. Although Poe has long called for a severing of US ties with Islamabad, his proposals are now complemented by outside policy recommendations to “get tough on Pakistan.” Early indicators from the Trump administration suggest that it is adopting this approach.
On June 23, 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was closing the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) which was intended as a diplomatic effort to augment military operations in Afghanistan. Trump has also granted Defence Secretary Mattis the power to unilaterally increase troop levels in Afghanistan by 3,900. These developments suggest that the administration increasingly views Afghanistan as a conflict with a military solution. With an exodus of senior leadership from the State Department, no new US ambassador for Pakistan or Afghanistan, and the potential departure of the SRAP, we are left with only a few clues as to what will emerge as Washington’s Pakistan policy.
Rather than threatening Pakistan, the US should acknowledge its own missteps in Afghanistan, initiate backchannel diplomacy between Pakistan, India, and even Iran, on the issues of Kashmir, Balochistan, and Afghanistan and recognise that for Pakistan the ‘war on terror’ has been fought at home
One clue is the choice of Lisa Curtis as Senior Director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council (NSC). She once served the State Department in New Delhi and was an analyst for the CIA. On April 17, 2017, Curtis accompanied US National Security Adviser Lt. General HR McMaster to hold official talks with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s adviser, Sartaj Aziz, allaying any doubt of her growing ability to influence policy. Although career diplomat Alice Wells serves as acting SRAP and Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the State Department, Curtis will likely have greater proximity to Trump. Prior to the NSC, Curtis worked at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank and this provides a glimpse into her views. There, Curtis co-chaired a Pakistan policy review with former ambassador Husain Haqqani and they published a report earlier this year proposing that the US reduce military aid to Islamabad, as well as consider sanctions and a state sponsor of terrorism designation.
Haqqani has raised some valid criticisms of relations between the army and militants. Most recently he penned a New York Times article in which he derided “imaginary fears” about India and recommended the US strip Pakistan of its MNNA status in order to jolt it awake. But US policymakers must remember that the messenger is often just as important as the message. Elected officials and technocrats inside Pakistan may share some of Haqqani’s views but are accountable to more than the New York Times’ editorial board. Even Haqqani’s liberal admirers inside Pakistan who themselves are deeply suspicious of the military, occasionally label him as an opportunist because of the Islamist activism of his youth, followed by service to the PML-N, PPP, and allegedly Washington. American policymakers must put aside their unrelenting tendency to become enamoured with erudite exiles whose criticisms of their home countries seem to always align with US interests, and recognise that Haqqani is as polarising for Pakistan as Edward Snowden is for the US.
However, Haqqani and Curtis are not alone. Georgetown professor Christine Fair has long argued that the Pakistani military is taking the US for a ride and Washington should not consider Islamabad a partner. The Brookings Institution’s Bruce Riedel has made similar arguments. But would sanctions and a label of state sponsor of terrorism really address US concerns? When President George HW Bush was unable to certify that Pakistan did not possess nuclear weapons, Congress invoked the Pressler Amendment and cut off military aid. This did not prompt Nawaz Sharif to change Pakistan’s course in the early 1990s but instead pushed him closer to generals who sought a policy of “strategic defiance.”
Proponents of getting tough on Pakistan aver that previous attempts failed because economic aid was maintained and Pakistan never experienced true isolation. Conversely, Pakistan’s actions are motivated by a feeling of isolation and the timing of such a policy could not be worse. Narendra Modi’s decision to visit Washington and Tel Aviv in one trip was likely intended to amplify the least rational voices within Pakistan. If the US takes a hard stance toward Islamabad, Nawaz Sharif and his opponents will be forced to adopt increasingly nationalistic policies in their campaigns, not only to compete with Imran Khan’s platform, but to show the Pakistani electorate that they are not weak in the face of foreign cajoling. With Sharif embroiled in a corruption scandal made worse by the JIT report, and opposition parties preoccupied with political posturing, Pakistan may not even realise just how serious the situation has become.
Washington has grown impatient with Pakistan, yet claims it would like to see unbridled civilian rule. But the US has routinely undermined this goal by working directly with the military and ISI. If Islamabad were truly held accountable to the desires of Pakistanis, which often contradict US demands, would Washington refrain from interfering? Rather than threatening Pakistan the US should acknowledge its own missteps in Afghanistan, initiate backchannel diplomacy between Pakistan, India, and even Iran, on the issues of Kashmir, Balochistan, and Afghanistan, treat the Pakistani government and military as an equal partner, and recognise that for Pakistan the ‘war on terror’ has been fought at home. Taking Pakistan’s security concerns seriously will not be seen as an act of weakness or one that implicitly justifies Pakistan-based terrorism but rather one of much needed leadership.
The writer is a veteran of the US Marine Corps and served in Afghanistan. He works as a policy analyst and focuses on South Asia and Iran. He tweets at @AdamNoahWho
Published in Daily Times, July 16th , 2017.

The Division Between America and Pakistan


Trump Hardening Line on Pakistan
By Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s administration appears ready to harden its approach toward Pakistan to crack down on Pakistan-based militants launching attacks in neighboring Afghanistan, U.S. officials tell Reuters.
Potential Trump administration responses being discussed include expanding U.S. drone strikes, redirecting or withholding some aid to Pakistan and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Some U.S. officials, however, are skeptical of the prospects for success, arguing that years of previous U.S. efforts to curb Pakistan’s support for militant groups have failed, and that already strengthening U.S. ties to India, Pakistan’s arch-enemy, undermine chances of a breakthrough with Islamabad.
U.S. officials say they seek greater cooperation with Pakistan, not a rupture in ties, once the administration finishes a regional review of the strategy guiding the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan.
Precise actions have yet to be decided.
The White House and Pentagon declined to comment on the review before its completion. Pakistan’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The United States and Pakistan continue to partner on a range of national security issues,” Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said.
But the discussions alone suggest a shift toward a more assertive approach to address safe havens in Pakistan that have been blamed for in part helping turn Afghanistan’s war into an intractable conflict.
Experts on America’s longest war argue that militant safe havens in Pakistan have allowed Taliban-linked insurgents a place to plot deadly strikes in Afghanistan and regroup after ground offensives.
Although long mindful of Pakistan, the Trump administration in recent weeks has put more emphasis on the relationship with Islamabad in discussions as it hammers out a the regional strategy to be presented to Trump by mid-July, nearly six months after he took office, one official said.
“We’ve never really fully articulated what our strategy towards Pakistan is. The strategy will more clearly say what we want from Pakistan specifically,” the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Other U.S. officials warn of divisions within the government about the right approach and question whether any mix of carrots and sticks can get Islamabad to change its behavior. At the end of the day, Washington needs a partner, even if an imperfect one, in nuclear-armed Pakistan, they say.
The United States is again poised to deploy thousands more troops in Afghanistan, an acknowledgment that U.S.-backed forces are not winning and Taliban militants are resurgent.
Without more pressure on militants within Pakistan who target Afghanistan, experts say additional U.S. troop deployments will fail to meet their ultimate objective: to pressure the Taliban to eventually negotiate peace.
“I believe there will be a much harder U.S. line on Pakistan going forward than there has been in the past,” Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan ambassador to the United States, told Reuters, without citing specific measures under review.
Kabul has long been critical of Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan.
Pakistan fiercely denies allowing any militants safe haven on its territory. It bristles at U.S. claims that Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, has ties to Haqqani network militants blamed for some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan.
“What Pakistan says is that we are already doing a lot and that our plate is already full,” a senior Pakistani government source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The source doubted the Trump administration would press too hard, saying: “They don’t want to push Pakistan to abandon their war against terrorism.”
Pakistani officials point towards the toll militancy has taken on the country. Since 2003, almost 22,000 civilians and nearly 7,000 Pakistani security forces have been killed as a result of militancy, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, which tracks violence.
Experts say Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan is also driven in part by fears that India will gain influence in Afghanistan.
IS PAKISTAN AN ALLY?
Nuclear-armed Pakistan won the status as a major non-NATO ally in 2004 from the George Bush administration, in what was at the time seen in part as recognition of its importance in the U.S. battle against al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents.
The status is mainly symbolic, allowing limited benefits such as giving Pakistan faster access to surplus U.S. military hardware.
Some U.S. officials and experts on the region scoff at the title.
“Pakistan is not an ally. It’s not North Korea or Iran. But it’s not an ally,” said Bruce Riedel, a Pakistan expert at the Brookings Institution.
But yanking the title would be seen by Pakistan as a major blow.
“The Pakistanis would take that very seriously because it would be a slap at their honor,” said a former U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Lisa Curtis, senior director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council, co-authored a report with Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington, in which they recommended the Trump administration warn Pakistan the status could be revoked in six months.
“Thinking of Pakistan as an ally will continue to create problems for the next administration as it did for the last one,” said the February report.
It was unclear how seriously the Trump administration was considering the proposal.
The growing danger to Afghanistan from suspected Pakistan-based militants was underscored by a devastating May 31 truck bomb that killed more than 80 people and wounded 460 in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.
Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency said the attack – one of the deadliest in memory in Kabul – had been carried out by the Haqqani network with assistance from Pakistan, a charge Islamabad denies.
Washington believes the strikes appeared to be the work of the Haqqani network, U.S. officials told Reuters.
U.S. frustration over the Haqqani’s presence in Pakistan has been building for years. The United States designated the Haqqani network as a terrorist organization in 2012. U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, then the top U.S. military officer, told Congress in 2011 that the Haqqani network was a “veritable arm” of the ISI.
The potential U.S. pivot to a more assertive approach would be sharply different than the approach taken at the start of the Obama administration, when U.S. officials sought to court Pakistani leaders, including Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.
David Sedney, who served as Obama’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia from 2009 to 2013, said the attempt to turn Islamabad into a strategic partner was a “disaster.”
“It didn’t affect Pakistan’s behavior one bit. In fact, I would argue it made Pakistan’s behavior worse,” Sedney said.
MORE DRONES, CASH CUT-OFF
Pakistan has received more than $33 billion in U.S. assistance since 2002, including more than $14 billion in so-called Coalition Support Funds (CSF), a U.S. Defense Department program to reimburse allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-insurgency operations.
It is an important form of foreign currency for the nuclear-armed country and one that is getting particularly close scrutiny during the Trump administration review.
Last year, the Pentagon decided not to pay Pakistan $300 million in CSF funding after then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter declined to sign authorization that Pakistan was taking adequate action against the Haqqani network.
U.S. officials said the Trump administration was discussing withholding at least some assistance to Pakistan.
Curtis’ report also singled out the aid as a target.
But U.S. aid cuts could cede even more influence to China, which already has committed nearly $60 billion in investments in Pakistan.
Another option under review is broadening a drone campaign to penetrate deeper into Pakistan to target Haqqani fighters and other militants blamed for attacks in Afghanistan, U.S. officials and a Pakistan expert said.
“Now the Americans (will be) saying, you aren’t taking out our enemies, so therefore we are taking them out ourselves,” the Pakistan expert, who declined to be identified, said.
Pakistan’s army chief of staff last week criticized “unilateral actions” such as drone strikes as “counterproductive and against (the) spirit of ongoing cooperation and intelligence sharing being diligently undertaken by Pakistan”.
(Additional reporting by Josh Smith in Kabul, Drazen Jorgic in Islamabad and John Walcott in Washington; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Howard Goller)
Copyright 2017 Thomson Reuters.

Pakistan the Most Dangerous Country in the World

 Falling Economy And Rising Nuke Arsenal Make Pakistan The Most Dangerous Country For World, Claims Former CIA Official
Pakistan is probably the “most dangerous country” in the world, a former CIA official has said, citing the potential dangers emanating from its failing economy, rampant terrorism and one of fastest growing nuclear arsenal.
Kevin Hulbert, a former CIA Station Chief in Islamabad, warned that the “failure” of Pakistan would have implications for the world.
Pakistan is like the bank that is “too big to fail”, or “too big to allow to fail” more appropriately because allowing the bank to fail could have catastrophic impacts on the greater economy, Hulbert wrote in the Cipher Brief – a website for the intelligence community.
“We have big problems in Afghanistan with its population of 33 million people, but Pakistan has about 182 million inhabitants, over five times the size of Afghanistan,” he said.
“With a failing economy, rampant terrorism, the fastest growing nuclear arsenal, the sixth largest population, and one of the highest birthrates in the world, Pakistan is of grave concern,” Hulbert said.
“In the end, while Pakistan is not the most dangerous country in the world, it probably is the most dangerous country in the world. There seem few levers to pull in Pakistan today, but if we pursue a strategy of containment or disengagement, things will only get worse,” he said.
The US and the IMF have given billions of dollars in financial assistance because the spectre of Pakistan collapsing presents US President with more nightmare scenarios than probably any other country in the world, he said.
“So, we keep throwing money at it, trying to steer them towards good behaviour, and with only limited success. But, we must keep trying,” he added.
In Afghanistan, Hulbert said the only real mission today is to stop the country from falling to the Taliban and to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists who might plan attacks against the West.
“Meanwhile, if we stay, the death toll for the US continues as the casualties dribble in,” he said.

India Threatens The Pakistani Horn

In an interview with leading Indian channel, the minister blatantly refused to guarantee refraining from surgical strikes in future.
‘Pakistan is our neighbouring country. If they correct themselves, it will be good, but if some terror attack takes place, we cannot guarantee that there won’t be a surgical strike in future. We don’t want, but if situation demands, there is no second way,’ said Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
Detailing the previous surgical strike, which Pakistan termed a drama, Rajnath maintained that Indian premier Narendra Modi had taken this well thought after decision in which all sat down together to explore the option. Singh said there were inputs that after carrying out terror strikes in Kashmir, terrorists returned to the launching pads on the Line of Control.
‘Our soldiers went across the Line of Control and hit those launching pads and cause significant damages’ the Home Minister said.
‘Hafiz Saeed has been put under house arrest earlier also. After 26/11 he was put under house arrest. My input is, this is his second house arrest but I feel this is just eye wash. If Pakistan is serious about acting against Saeed and terrorists, it must take legal action against them’ asserted Rajnath.
He went on to say that Hafiz Saeed should be charge sheeted and put behind bars.
On the other hand, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday said that Pakistan Army was ready to give a befitting response to any aggression from across the border.
He said that India was trying to divert the world’s attention from its atrocities against the Kashmiris by violating the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LOC) and the Working Boundary (WB).
India blamed Pakistan for the attack but Pakistan categorically denied the allegations in this regard.
The tension simmered once again after India claimed that they had carried out a surgical strike inside Pakistan in September, which Pakistan simply shrugged off.
Recently India targeted a passenger bus in Neelum Valley that left nine passengers dead. Moreover, three Pakistani soldiers also lost their lives in the attack.

Trump And The Pakistani Nuclear Horn (Daniel 8)

Trump Vs. Pakistan

Four general impressions of Trump jump out of these executive orders.
Four general impressions of Trump jump out of these executive orders. First, he is abysmally ignorant about how the world works and has a tendency to ignore or deny what he does not know. Second, he is a man whose formative influences in foreign affairs are based on long entrenched prejudices and biases — as evidenced by his talk of the trade deals he has allegedly always known were ripoffs. Third, he is someone who will remain wedded to his base for reasons of politics as much as for holding sway over adulating millions to validate his superego, which is typical of a strongman psyche. And lastly, he is a complex personality, thick-skinned on criticism of his policies and thin-skinned on personal slights. That makes him a poor politician and a bad diplomat.
Trump 101
But we need to go beyond these impressions and look at more evidence to make any informed guesses about his foreign policy, which these executive orders touch only tangentially. The evidence would be, on one hand, Trump’s long-lasting campaign rhetoric, of which the inauguration speech was the finale, his tweets, personal background and business career; and on the other what his secretaries of state and defense have said at their confirmation hearings. Their remarks are so much at odds with Trump’s own statements that we are tempted to presume they would not have so spoken if they believed this would not be reflected in policy.
In all likelihood, Trump’s primary focus will be on domestic issues like the economy, jobs and security; and in foreign policy on hybrid issues – foreign policy issues with high domestic impact – like trade, immigration, terrorism (including the nuclear threat), the Iran nuclear deal, and relations with Israel. Policies on these issues will have his imprimatur, whereas the rest of the foreign policy including geopolitics or strategic issues is likely to have institutional flavor. The executive orders issued in the first week came in this hybrid category. There will be an overall Trump effect on the whole spectrum of foreign policy, though we are still unsure about how that will play out.
As a candidate Trump’s views on many issues were erratic, incoherent, and contradictory. Basically, he said what people wanted to hear. So what does this tell us about him? He is a man of expediency and opportunism, and that might suggest a realist foreign policy. If one puts his campaign rhetoric along with his character traits, his long-held public views, and business career, one gets a snapshot of a man who would look at foreign policy in a transactional way. That means he may prefer a foreign policy without an overarching design or a vision, which will be too constricting for him. He would like to have a flexible negotiating hand.
He is unlikely to be interventionist, internationalist or expansionist. Nor will he be isolationist. He is not going to ignite any new wars. He may not like to get into “foreign entanglements” or to go abroad “in search of monsters to destroy,” unless of course it is Islamic State (ISIS).
The existing alliance system will largely remain intact, but he might like to add, if necessary, short-term alliance arrangements spurred on by the need of the moment. The underlying feeling may well be that there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies. To his mind, given the competitive world we live in, this may be the right approach. Fixed unchanging alliances belong to a world that is no more. America has been overcommitted and it needs to lighten the load of leadership, the benefits of which are now dubious. America, he feels, can deal with the world on its own, and on its own terms. If not, he claims he can make it stronger so that it can. American exceptionalism will still be there but will have a new name: America First.
Trump and Pakistan
Now where does this leave U.S.-Pakistan relations? Basically, relations with Pakistan depend on what approach he brings to the war on terrorism and to the Afghanistan war. The Obama administration lost its way in dealing with Pakistan. The president got too invested in India both for reasons of legacy and his focus on building India as a balancer to China. And that gave India a big voice in U.S.-Pakistan relations to Pakistan’s disadvantage.
Obama was also in a hurry to leave some semblance of stability in the Afghanistan war as he left office. That led him to put too much pressure on Pakistan, egged on no doubt by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as well. So relations with Pakistan came under strain as Pakistan felt squeezed on three sides. For better or worse Pakistan decided it would not give in under pressure.
Trump will have no such political baggage and will be assisted by a secretary of defense who by all accounts seems to be a thoughtful and knowledgeable military leader with good understanding of history of wars and conflicts. I am sure the new administration will have a fresh look at the Afghanistan war as well as at broader American interests in South Asia. Obama’s pivot to Asia and the need to build up India as a balancer against China had created an imbalance in the U.S. approach to the region.
The fact is that the lengthening strategic shadow of China is not the only challenge that the United States faces there. There is of course the unresolved conflict in Afghanistan, but also the looming threat of ISIS, continued militancy in Pakistan (both homegrown and Afghanistan-based), revolutionary Iran, and an assertive Russia. Pakistan is a factor in all this.
The U.S.-Pakistan relationship has served some important interests of the two countries for over six decades and may continue to do so at least for the foreseeable future. Despite frequent breakdowns, the relationship has survived because both sides have felt a compelling need for each other and keep coming back.
Pakistan has continued to provide valuable cooperation in intelligence-gathering related to transnational terrorists like al-Qaeda and ISIS or lone wolves. And this cooperation is very much needed and should continue. So sanctioning Pakistan is not an option — at least, that is what Defense Secretary James Mattis hinted in his remarks during his confirmation hearing. He warned that putting conditions on U.S. security assistance to Pakistan has not always produced the desired results.
Will a continuation of the Obama policy of neither carrots nor sticks work? Washington needs to try something new, but it will not be easy to think up good policy. U.S. engagement with the region has revolved around two organizing ideas – China and the war on terrorism, of which the Afghanistan war is a part. For one, Washington needs India, and, for the other, it needs Pakistan. But Pakistan and India don’t get along, nor do Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan is seen as destabilizing India and not helping stabilize Afghanistan. On top of that, its surrogates like the Haqqani Network are attacking American soldiers. And at the strategic level, Pakistan is seen as part of the Pakistan-China axis. That makes the relationship with Pakistan very complex. These irreconcilables have to be somehow reconciled.
There is thus a limit to how much pressure Washington can put on Pakistan. By Washington’s own worst fears, Pakistan is where terrorism and the nuclear threat converge. If there is unbearable pressure on Pakistan, forcing it to go after all militant groups at once, groups such as the Haqqani Network and Afghan Taliban-Pakistan could be destabilized as these groups have the capacity to hit back.  It may be a stable country now, but the consequences of instability given its nuclear assets and the risk of their falling into the hands of radicals will be horrendous. The challenge is how to avoid that scenario while also avoiding a clean break in the relationship that would be capitalized on by China.
Admittedly, Pakistan’s should not harbor the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban. But Pakistan is not going to expel them, if only for fear of a blowback. Pakistan will need to know what comes next principally in terms of relations with Afghanistan and India. To say that Pakistan is obsessed with India and the so-called “strategic depth” that is determining its Afghan policy is to minimize Pakistani concerns.
There is a long bitter history of Pakistan-Afghan relations, which go back centuries. They have a 2,400 kilometer long border which Afghanistan does not recognize, instead harboring irredentist claims. Each may be providing sanctuaries to terrorists and insurgents operating against the other now, but for a long time they have harbored dissidents from either side. The two countries have attacked each other’s diplomatic missions and have at times broken off diplomatic ties. As for India, Pakistan feels that by giving a big space to India, Washington has created an Afghanistan that is not consistent with its security interests.
These are the challenges that President Trump will face in Pakistan. The main challenge would be to focus on formulating a policy on Pakistan for its own sake, where Washington has not only important interests but also serious issues, as part of a South Asia policy that has come to rest too much on the centrality of India.
U.S. relations with India are important and should grow and expand but must not be the sole determinant of U.S. policies in the region. Washington should have a more holistic engagement with the region and may have to end up working with China to influence Pakistan’s policies and help stabilize Afghanistan.
Touqir Hussain, a former ambassador of Pakistan and diplomatic adviser to the prime minister, teaches at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins University.