In possibly the sternest warning to Pakistan by an American leader, US President Donald Trump has put Islamabad on notice, declaring it “has much to lose by continuing to harbour terrorists” and hinting at a direct action within that nation.
Outlining a new strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia before at a meeting of 2,000 US military personnel at Fort Meyer near Washington, he forthrightly accused Pakistan of giving “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror”.
In an implied warning to Islamabad, he added, “These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide – that no place is beyond the reach of American arms.”
Asserting that “the next pillar of our new strategy is a change in our approach to Pakistan,” he reverted to his trademark blunt style and said: “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.”
“Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan,” he added. “It has much to lose by continuing to harbour terrorists.”
In the strongest accusation coming from a US President, he forthrightly accused Pakistan of giving “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror”.
“We will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan,” he said.
“These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide – that no place is beyond the reach of American arms.”
“I have already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our warfighters that prevented the Secretary of Defence and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy,” he said.
While he talked of a new strategy, he played the cards close to his chest. He did not provide any specifics saying: “We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities.”
He added that he would not set any timetables — which his predecessor Barack Obama had.
Trump said: “From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating IS (Islamic State), crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over the country and stopping mass terror attacks against Americans before they emerge.”
Another important change to US policy that he announced was a break from the failed policies of his predecessors to build democracies around the world, sometimes at the point of a gun as in Iraq.
He called the new policy “Principled Realism” and said: “We will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in far away lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image – those days are now over.”
He added, “We are not asking others to change their way of life, but to pursue common goals that allow our children to live better lives.”
He raised the spectre of nuclear threats at two levels.
“We must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us,” Trump said.
The other danger he saw was from Pakistan’s backing for terrorists against India.
“The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict,” he said.