The emergence of terrorism as a significant threat to world peace and the subsequent war on terrorism to annihilate its proprietors has resulted in adverse consequences for nations involved in the struggle. For instance, countries such as Afghanistan, among others, are occasionally accused of harboring cells where militants recruit and train assailants and plan attacks against their enemies in the west. On the other hand, the U.S. and its allied countries respond to these attacks to protect their citizens and guarantee safety within their borders. To achieve this, the US leverage the resources of allies like Pakistan as strategic avenues for launching retaliation attacks against terrorists, a subject matter that has significantly strained the relationships between the U.S. and Middle Eastern countries.
While Pakistan is considered a major non-NATO ally, the nation is also one of the biggest recipients of U.S. aid. Between 2002 and 2013 the US sent an estimated $26 billion in financial aid and military equipment to Pakistan to assist forces in the war against Afghanistan (Shah & Majeed, 2019). Although Washington relies on Pakistan to advance its antiterrorism agenda in the Middle East, US initiatives have significantly interfered with Pakistan’s intentions of establishing a peaceful and beneficial relationship with Afghanistan, despite sharing significant religious and socio-cultural heritage (Javaid, 2020). Consequently, the move toward creating a less hostile environment in the Middle East has resulted in some disputes between the US and Pakistan as the US believes that Pakistan is holding back its efforts. Hence, this paper aims to examine some of these concerns and their impact on the relationship between the US, Pakistan, and Middle Eastern nations.
During the emergence of the War on Terrorism, Afghanistan, alongside other Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq and Iran was accused by the U.S. of harboring terrorists and supporting their activities globally. Although the U.S. had initially attempted to create favorable foreign policies in the Middle East without infringing on the sovereignty of nations in the region, the involvement of Kabul in terrorist activities was considered a major threat to the security of the US, and its citizens, and other nations around the globe. Accordingly, the U.S., alongside their allies and other NATO members deemed it necessary to take military action against Afghanistan and exterminate all terrorists in the region from their hiding cells (Mustafa & Bhatti, 2020). However, the action by Washington to invade Afghanistan on the pretext of the War on Terrorism was not taken lightly by Kabul, which accused Washington of being excessively aggressive and breaching international peace treaties. In 2012, President Barack Obama declared war on Afghanistan as Washington believed that the nation supported terrorist networks.
Regarded as the longest war in the history of the U.S., the American-Afghanistan war ended after the withdrawal of the American troops from the region on August 30, 2021. However, it had severe consequences on the relations between the US, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. For example, the US had eroded all its previous efforts toward peaceful conflict resolution policies in the Middle East since Afghanistan perceived its actions as strategies to destroy the country (Mustafa & Bhatti, 2020). On the other hand, Americans did not perceive their military actions against Afghanistan as an infringement. On the contrary, most individuals still hold that the US has a right to declare war on other countries as long as they disrupt world peace. In the Bible, it is written that “the Lord will judge all nations and settle disputes for his people by beating their swords and turning their spears into pruning hooks” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Isa. 2:4). Thus, America assumes the role of the nation used by God to accomplish this mission. Despite the US managing to root out Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, they have suffered several losses since they embarked on the mission. As a result, the government was obligated to withdraw all its military efforts in the region without fully accomplishing its mission.
Building a cooperative relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan has always been at the forefront of Pakistani foreign policy. Nevertheless, past conflicts between the two countries complicate their relationship and limit positive development (Threlkeld & Easterly, 2021). For instance, the vote by Afghanistan against Pakistan’s move to join the United Nations in 1947, remains a contentious issue. As a result, the U.S. using Pakistan to launch attacks in Afghanistan against terrorists, exasperated issues and further strained their relationship. Subsequently, the U.S. was forced to withdraw from the conflict because of the escalated violence against their military forces, who suffered several losses (Qayum et al., 2018). Therefore, it can be deduced that Afghanistan’s failure to vote for Pakistan’s admission to the UN after their independence is one of the causes of the strained relationship between the two countries as these nations’ conflict was sparked by the disagreement.
The Strained Relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan
Conflicts between the U.S. and Pakistan are believed to have escalated during the war in Afghanistan thereby straining the relationship between the two nations. As noted, the U.S. relied on Pakistan and its forces to support its regional initiatives and help dismantle the terror networks and militia groups believed to be hiding in Afghanistan. However, according to Washington, Pakistan was not fully committed to the War on Terror nor did it take any initiative to make the task any easier. Subsequently, these claims significantly damaged the relations between Washington and Islamabad (Threlkeld & Easterly, 2021). In 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama declared Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally, thus reducing the tension that had ensued between the nation and Pakistan. Nevertheless, the American War against terrorism in Afghanistan officially ended after the withdrawal of American troops from the country on August 30, 2021 (Mir, 2021). Since then, there has been little convergence between the interests of the U.S. and Pakistan.
Whereas it is in the public domain that Pakistan joined hands with the U.S. on the War on Terror in Afghanistan by positioning herself as a frontline ally, this decision was not by choice. The decision is believed to have been arrived at through coercive diplomacy of Washington and Islamabad’s apprehension. If they refused to accept the proposition, the U.S. had the option of increasing India’s presence and role in the war against terrorism thereby undermining the concerns of Pakistan (Threlkeld & Easterly, 2021). Considering the compulsive issues that engulfed this decision, Pakistan came up with a strategy of making money out of their cooperation with the U.S. since this deal required the involvement of the military more than the civilian leadership. As a result, Pakistan was able to monetize and advance its resources.
Although Pakistan claims that it has never received any appreciation for its role in the war and that the costs and damages incurred were huge and irreparable, there have been several contradictions between Washington and Islamabad on the issue. For instance, before the withdrawal of the U.S. troops from the war, President Donald Trump accused Islamabad of receiving billions of dollars to host the terrorists that the U.S. was fighting. Nevertheless, these claims were refuted by the Pakistani foreign minister (Threlkeld & Easterly, 2021). Notably, Washington was not the only party that accused Pakistan of hosting the Taliban and other terrorist groups. The government of Afghanistan had also accused Pakistan of having a hand in the dealings of the Taliban and undermining the War on Terror (Shah & Majeed, 2019). Due to the aforementioned factors, the U.S. demanded that Pakistan take decisive and irreversible action against the terror groups while Pakistan’s rebuttal was that it had done more than enough. Even so, Pakistan held that Washington refused to appreciate its efforts as it was involved in someone else’s war. Notably, this action was viewed as a strategy of renegotiating the terms of engagement with Washington as opposed to cutting off their ties entirely.
The involvement of Pakistan in the war against terror in Afghanistan did not yield fruit because of the lack of economic and strategic interests between Pakistan and the US. Seemingly, this relationship still exists because of ad-hoc security issues with both the countries requiring each other’s resources. While Washington needed Pakistan to eliminate Osama bin Laden and the terror networks in the region, Islamabad viewed this opportunity as an avenue to monetize herself and become relevant in the region (Shah & Majeed, 2019). Notably, there is a strong division between the civilian and military leadership in Pakistan. Whereas the civilian leadership is concerned about the general economic consequences and human casualties, the military leadership is interested in security strategies (Mustafa & Bhatti, 2020). Thus, the speculators suggest that the US pays more attention to Pakistan’s military aspects than its foreign policy developments. As a consequence, the US and Pakistan continue having mistrust issues while their relationship erodes Pakistan’s foreign policy in Afghanistan.
The United States has shared several economic, security, and cultural interests with Middle Eastern nations for centuries. However, the war against terrorism significantly altered the face of USFP as it obligated the US and its allies to take action against proprietors. According to information sources, Afghanistan played a role in harboring some of the most wanted terrorist leaders worldwide. Therefore, the US set camp in Pakistan and solicited their support to wage the war against terrorism. Nevertheless, these initiatives had a destructive implication on the relationships of all these countries as they eroded US initiatives of advocating for democracy and peaceful conflict resolution in the Middle East. Moreover, the actions of the US military in Afghanistan strained the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which was initially unstable. Further, the war against terrorism resulted in disputes between the US and Pakistan since US officials claimed that they did not receive the support they were entitled to when in Pakistan, while Pakistan held that the US did not have any valuable interests in the region. As a result, these countries have been working on mending these relationships, thus facilitating the decision to withdraw the US military from the region.
English Standard Version Bible. (2001). ESV Online. Web.
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