Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Trump Tweets on Pakistan

It is obvious that Trump has initiated an exercise in public diplomacy vis-a-vis Pakistan without any real consultation with anyone inside USG.

It is not clear what made him focus his attention on Pakistan. Current suspects include a chance conversation at Mar-a-Lago, a year end briefing by the IC and Erik Prince pissing in his ear about how much money he could make in Afghanistan.

It is also not clear what the end point of this exercise is. If this had been done properly there would have been a internal strategic review. The review would have put a head and a tail to this and we would have seen some meaningful statement of the goals of this act and a clear exit. Trump doesn't do that. He thinks he is the only one that counts in the government and everyone else is just taking up space. Trump will likely support my joke proposal for renting space on the 7th floor of the State Department for an indoor urban farm!

The Pakistanis are treating this like it is the real thing - i.e. an exercise in coercive diplomacy by the US aimed at ousting Pakistan from its monopoly on transit routes to Afghanistan. Most of the US academic community focused on South Asia is inclined to follow suit. This approach makes sense - even if this is just some random nonsense Trump shot out his twitter - it is worthwhile to use this to game a real world coercive exercise. If one approaches it in that fashion, this is actually an ideal opportunity to do this kind of gaming.

The Panjshiris are quite happy, they have had a difficult year with a lot of troubles with Atta Muhammad. They could use a laugh or two. All Afghans could use a bit of a laugh really - the Pakistanis have been dreadful to them.

The Indians frankly couldn't give two shits about this, but because Modi is constantly on the look out for things that make him look successful, he will probably try to get a political rise out of it. I trust the BJP media cell will do the needful (hopefully they won't cock it up like the whole Ishrat Jahan thing. No really - everyone had forgotten who that was until you brought it up again and that too while this Loya thing is still airborne - nice work guys - do they pay you for self goals? or have you crawled so far up Modi+Shah posterior that they actually think you did a good job on that one? - if so hats off to you - you might save India yet!)

For the Indian strategic studies community - I propose this situation is a good way to evaluate the impact of visible friction in US-Pak ties. Opportunities like this are quite rare - so I am sure there is something to be learn here.

For other nations - this may be a good platform to study what happens Trump launches a policy without any warning to elements of his own operation. This kind of a reverse cold-start problem. Again fascinating from the perspective of national policy analysis - not so great if you are stuck on the implementation side.

I am not sure what is going on with the Doval + Pak NSA meeting. Having heard only one side of it, I don't know

1) if l'affaire Jadhav is moving towards a conclusion acceptable to both sides,
2) if Ajit Doval has reassured the Pakistani side about the Saltoro situation. They are publicly hinting at their need for reassurance,
3) if any resolution has been reached on deterrence stability concerns regarding PK "tactical" nukes,
4) if there is any progress on the AIOS issue along the LoC. (if PK stops challenging it, IA will keep "conversations" limited to 50 mm or below)


At 7:17 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

its just a tweet. doesn't mean anything. just spouting off. whats he gonna do? hes got 14,000 or so troops in afghanistan that need supplies access through pakistan. he ain't doing nothing. logistics is everything.

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

...and in spite of all the terrorism coming out of pakistan, we do get some begrudging cooperation. not a lot but some.....

At 8:54 AM, Blogger maverick said...

No it is no longer "just a tweet" - that ship sailed when he hit the tweet button.

It is an un-safeguarded exercise in public diplomacy. It has no unclear goals and no known existent exits.

There is a rumor in PK circles going round that someone has signed Siraj Haqqani's and Haibatullah Akhunzada's status on the disposition matrix has altered.

There is also loose talk of expanding the drone operations boundary in Pakistan airspace.

Again - it is not clear to me if these events are causally linked to the tweet (it could easily be that these discussions predate the tweet and are being vented at this time) - but they are out there.

At 8:57 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Taken in conjunction with today's misbegotten penis comparisons with Kim Jong Un, I think it is critical that going forward all Nat Sec tweets should be gated at Twitter's servers by a committee headed by Gen. McMaster.

This is not novel, Trump tweets are already filtered by his legal team as he expects them to own his failure to keep his trap shut. This is why the frequency of self-incriminationatory statements in his tweets has declined after the "lawyer did it" fiasco.

At 6:33 PM, Blogger Almost Clever said...

Trump isn't alone on this. The policy was drawn up by McMaster's quite hawkish NSC based on a report by Husain Haqqani and Lisa Curtis; Curtis is now on the NSC as well, responsible for South Asia (Josh White's position on the Obama NSC). There's a bit of a divide between the White House/NSC on the one hand and State and Pentagon when it comes to how far and how hard to push Pakistan.

p.s. what happened here? The last time I scanned your blog a few years ago there were hundreds of comments.
-J. Price.

At 8:39 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Johann,

Long time no see. Hope you are well.

Yeah there is some group in the NSC that is trying to turn the tweets into something sensible, so there is hope, but without a clear scope statement out of Trump internally it will be difficult IMHO to construct a real policy out this.

re -what happened, I guess I'm not as interesting anymore. It comes and goes in waves. I don't usually think about that.


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