Trump's Afghanistan decision hangs in the air. Will he follow the deep state into a deeper quagmire, or work with Russia and China to extricate himself from the mess?
The next phase of the battle in Central Asia has already begun. For months now a plan has been forming to reconcile the Pakistani government, the Afghan government in Kabul and the Taliban to bring about some semblance of order to the country by driving ISIS recruiters out and cutting down the heroin trade.
That plan is opposed by the U.S. Deep State because it is the long-term lynch pin to the success of China’s One Belt, One Road project and China’s $56 billion investment into Pakistan known as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The ouster by the Supreme Court of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif puts any further negotiations on hold for the next year until a new leader of Pakistan’s civilian government can be elected.
Pakistan was being actively elevated by Russia and China to take the lead in the dialogue, much to the consternation of India, because it must. As neighbors, they have the most to gain from coordination of policy.
In doing this, however, it is elevating the civilian government in international relations at the expense of the powerful Pakistani military who have strong ties with Saudi Arabia. With Sharif’s refusal to assist the Saudis in their disastrous war in Yemen or support their diplomatic isolation of Qatar, it really was a matter of time before the military made a move behind the scenes to throw the civilian government into turmoil.
So far, there seems to be little upheaval at the political level. The parliament moved quickly to elect an interim Prime Minister from Sharif’s own PML-N Party, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. But this will set back the negotiations between Islamabad and Kabul.
Moreover, Russia has opened up dialogues with both the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban in order to seek an alliance between them. Now, the question is how much farther are U.S. military and intelligence assets willing to push things while they have the President boxed in on all sides in the White House?
To his credit, President Trump and his Secretaries of State and Defense have slashed funding to Pakistan’s military, thus putting it on notice to allow the civilian government to take more control of the situation.
Budget proposals call for just $100 million in aid, and then only in the form of loans, rather than direct subsidies.
In addition, Trump has ordered a full review of the US’ deployment in Afghanistan. And, at this point the entire thing is up in the air. Trump is leery of expanding the operation because sixteen years of fighting the Taliban has yielded nothing except more regional chaos and a booming global narcotics trade.
If his military advisers like neocon nutcase H.R. McMaster can’t give him a satisfactory answer Trump can and likely will do what he did to the CIA’s program arming rebels in Syria. Defund it with the stroke of a pen.
Also, if he wants to throw a bone to a very angry and disappointed Vladimir Putin he would pull out of Afghanistan and allow Russia, China, et al. to work together in dismantling the crown jewel in Zbigniew Brzezinski’s policy of Asian chaos.
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