The strategic picture in South Asia has shifted dramatically with two linked events, the Afghan “peace deal” and the deal with India. The looming shadow over the peace deal has always been Pakistan. For decades, Pakistan has leveraged their status with the US as a frontline state to extract immensely powerful weapons systems well above their status as a debtor nation. The relationship had the US taxpayer shelling out hundreds of billions of dollars for relatively little in return. The “peace deal” is no deal and will not deliver peace. That is not what Mr. Trump is looking for. What it does accomplish is to open a door for the US to exit and award India with front line state status in what the Trump administration sees as confrontation with China. Pakistan may have been somewhat useful in the Cold War against the Soviet Union, but they are clearly worthless as a client state of China. The Trump White House is not interested in a partner trying to straddle the China/US confrontation now developing. At the same time they want to dump the expensive charade of the US fighting over the meager bones of Afghanistan while feeding Pakistan to fight against us. Pakistan’s friends in STATE are now a cadre of dead enders. Almost all of them are Clintonistas. So jezail.org bids them all a not-so-fond-farewell.
India is a vastly superior partner to Pakistan. It has a real economy instead of a basket case debtor economy and it has a real common interest in its’ concern about their neighbor China with whom they have fought a war. Unlike Pakistan, they can actually pay for the weapons they buy from the US without depending on the US to prop up their economy and shower them with billions of taxpayer dollars. India has also stopped buying oil from Iran and now purchases that oil from the US. They will also be purchasing LNG and coal in an enormous package that promises to benefit the US economy. They also have strategically located naval bases, most importantly guarding the Straits of Malacca. India’s location gives much greater strategic reach into the Pacific than Pakistan could ever have offered.
The key consideration for the viability of the Afghan peace deal is not just about firing Bolton. Although his absence is definitely a benefit, it is the deals struck with India that are game changers. The war in Afghanistan went on for as long as it did because it benefitted bureaucrats, policy makers and military professionals as well as the military and civilian contractors. It is a form of largely legalized corruption. Many quiet deals were struck with Pakistan over many years. The end game was to deliver Afghanistan to Pakistani appetites. It was all well represented on K street in one form or another. But the total net worth of deals with Pakistan could never be greater than any deal with India. Almost all of the Pakistani arrangements were underwritten by the US in shady aid packages and unaccountable “loans”. Previous Washington DC career bets were on Pakistan expanding and thriving. It didn’t happen that way and all the phony think tanks in Washington can’t make it even seem that way. The Pakistan constituency at STATE stayed there because China was to be a guarantor of Pakistan through the Belt and Road initiative. There were a lot of people in Foggy Bottom who liked the Afghan war because Pakistan was thriving on it as well as opening a door to profitable Chinese deals for many former US diplomats and spies. Now China has been showing Americans the door. As American diplomats are ending an era of wonton checkbook diplomacy in Pakistan, they leave delivering on a promise, Afghanistan looks to Pakistan like a rabbit before a snake.
So a result of the US pullout from Afghanistan is that Pakistan will likely make a push to swallow up as much of Afghanistan as it can get away with. Jezail.org has covered this ground before but the larger picture may well be that Pakistan will get sucked into a war that neither the Soviet Union nor the US could win. “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”. Pakistani villains may as well. For India, that may mean breathing space from continued terror attacks from a distracted Pakistan. This is still a matter of speculation and only time and events can tell.
Donald Trump made a mercurial change in US strategic posture by “making a deal” with India. In fact, many deals have been made and Mr. Trump merely put his prestige bets on them signaling a long over due strategic change for America. The total value of the deals is estimated to be about $142 billion. By contrast, Pakistan is still an economic basket case. There’s nothing quite like money to drain a swamp. Throwing defense money in a different direction is not the best way to do it but it’s likely to be effective. Unlike Trump’s other diplomatic attempts in Korea and Syria, this deal has a profound economic underpinning. It is the Indian “deal” that makes this Trump move out of Afghanistan different and jezail.org believes that there is a reason for the two events to happen back to back. They are connected. We are keeping our fingers crossed that it works. But the devil is always found in the details and those details will not be found in the wording of the “peace agreement” with the Taliban. That is a purely cosmetic document. It basically declares this in the first sentence. The US doesn’t even recognize the entity it is signing with. The agreement may be a meaningless piece of paper but it is America’s ticket out of a war that has gone on far too long. It is looking like it may be over and history is moving on.
However there are significant dark sides waiting in the shadows of the future of the US/India relationship. Even as Donald Trump addressed a jubilant crowd of tens of thousands of Indians, organized riots were underway that have been revealed to be BJP organized pogroms. New fighting and bombings have occurred in Afghanistan. The fate of those Afghans who worked with the US to fight the Taliban looks grim.
What a US pullout leaves behind is a civil war, backed by Pakistan that was frozen in 2002 when the US invaded. The longer wars last, the uglier they become. The Afghan civil war is very old. Its’ underlying ethnic tension is basically what tore it apart triggering a Soviet invasion to “stabilize” Afghanistan. Those issues remain unresolved. Afghans have historically looked to outside forces to deliver them from precarious situations and other neighboring countries may become sucked in as they have in the past.
India, which has long had good relations with its’ Muslim neighbors, other than Pakistan, is already becoming more distant from them. The Delhi pogrom has triggered a number of diplomatic messages of concern from several regional Muslim countries. The harshest came from Iran which is still hurt by India choosing to cease buying Irani oil. This puts a serious dent in Iran’s already ailing economy. The development of the port of Chabahar has slowed to a crawl.
The dominant role of the US defense industry in the US/India relationship will likely continue the American foreign policy habit of searching for enemies and inventing them where they cannot find any. Developing consortiums like Boing/Mahindra in India may well result in money flowing into Indian polity and influencing it in a manner similar to how it works the US political systems. Mr. Modi has displayed an uncharacteristic strong man style of leadership for India and the BJP party is well known as cold blooded pragmatists unafraid of violence. They proved it once again in Delhi.
So American investors are still probably safe in “defense” stocks and death merchants win again. But the “product” will always be the same.
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