On Monday night, President Trump delivered a message to the country about his new military strategy to win (or at least not lose) the 16-year war in Afghanistan. And while he refused to talk numbers, reports say that Trump has approved sending an additional 4,000 troops to Afghanistan to assist the Afghan National Army with aviation, logistics, training, intelligence, and planning.
It's a low-risk move compared to the troop surge under former President Barack Obama where, in 2009, he announced he would send 30,000 additional troops to the region.
There were many similarities between Trump's and Obama's speech. The one point that both leaders continued to hammer, however, was that countries such as Pakistan and India need to step up their efforts in the fight against terrorism.
"The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach in how to deal with Pakistan. We can no longer be silent about Pakistan's safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond," Trump stated on Monday night at Ft. Myer in Arlington, Va. "We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars, at the same time, they are housing the very terrorists we are fighting […] that must change immediately."
According to the South Asian Terrorism Portal which has been tracking the number of fatalities related to terrorist attacks, Pakistan has experienced the lowest number of civilian deaths in a decade.
A lot of this can be attributed to the drone war in Pakistan, which is responsible for both terrorist and civilian casualties. From 2004 to 2016, it's been reported that there have been over 400 drone strikes that have killed an estimated 2,499 to 4,001 people, with deaths ranging from 424 to 966 civilians.
As abhorrent as it is to bomb a country that the United States isn't officially at war with, the strategy seems to be working.
With the exception of a few horrific attacks in Pakistan (i.e. the 2016 Easter bombing in Lahore that killed more than 70 people), the country has been relatively stable.
Even though Nawaz Sharif was a corrupt politician who was expelled from office in late July, he expanded military operations to root out extremism that led to the arrests of over 32,000 people and deportation of over 18,000 Afghans.
While, of course, we can't ignore the alleged harboring of Osama Bin Laden in the military town of Abbottabad, Pakistan has cleaned up its act with the help of U.S. drones and tax dollars.
The U.S. and Pakistan have been "frenemies" for a while now. It's time to end the nonsense and start building a relationship like real allies founded on cohesion and trust. Eroding that relationship means the war will certainly be lost in Afghanistan and risk a new war with Pakistan.
Siraj Hashmi (@SirajAHashmi) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is an assistant editor at Red Alert Politics (a sister publication to the Washington Examiner).
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