Is Trump a threat to Pakistanis

Trump's tweet unites divided Pakistan

Pakistan's double game in Afghanistan has been a nuisance for the United States - not entirely without cause - for years. However, Islamabad is unlikely to be impressed by Donald Trump's confrontational course.

The American President's first tweet in the New Year is still making waves in Pakistan. In early New Year's morning, Donald Trump accused the emerging South Asian country in 280 undiplomatic signs of repaying financial support from Washington with nothing but lies and deceit and of continuing to support terrorists who killed American troops in Afghanistan. That must end. The government in Islamabad then called in the American ambassador, politicians of all stripes condemned Trump's tweet in the strongest possible terms. The national security commission discussed the new situation on Thursday.

Legitimate demands

However, the situation is not that new. The relationship between Washington and Islamabad, which has been strained for a decade and a half, has deteriorated continuously since Trump took office and has now reached another low point. The Afghanistan strategy announced by the American government in the summer already envisages making Pakistan more responsible in the fight against terrorism and making future financial support dependent on effective action against groups such as the Afghan Taliban. These have maintained a close relationship with the Pakistani security circles for decades.

That Pakistan is central to the dynamics of the conflict in Afghanistan is widely recognized. And even more level-headed spirits consider increased pressure on Pakistan to be appropriate. However, it should not be ignored which factors determine Pakistan's Afghanistan policy. Islamabad's greatest concern about its western neighbor is the expansion of Indian influence and thus the risk of encirclement by the archenemy. The Taliban are supported as a counterbalance, as a disruptive factor to a certain extent, to the pro-Indian civilian government in Kabul. The fact that America's new Afghanistan strategy explicitly calls for an increased role for India in the Hindu Kush makes it unacceptable for Pakistan.

In addition, not all forces are pulling together in Islamabad. While the civilian government has signaled a willingness to talk in recent years, the real power in the state, the army and the secret service, is not interested in a change in Afghanistan policy. The power struggle between the institutions only recently broke out again, and Afghanistan is likely to have been a central factor.

Last but not least, moderate, liberal forces are also demanding recognition for Pakistan's sacrifices and achievements in America's war on terror for a decade and a half - despite the double play of its own government. Pakistan is still home to several million Afghan refugees, more than anywhere else in the world until the outbreak of the war in Syria. The reduction of Pakistan to a factor of destabilization is viewed with some justification as unjust.

Block formation in the Hindu Kush

The unfriendly chirping from the White House has so far achieved one thing above all else: Despite primary fever - a new parliament will be elected in the summer - and the open power struggle between the political and military establishment, the country is united in its condemnation of American criticism. The course of confrontation will strengthen those forces which, in view of the strategic rapprochement between the USA and India, are demanding more distance from Washington anyway.

China, by far Pakistan's most important partner and donor, knows this too. As early as the morning after Trump's abuses, Beijing demonstratively backed up its so-called all-weather friend in an editorial in the state-run Global Times. The next day, the Pakistani central bank announced that it would in future settle trade transactions with China in yuan instead of dollars. In Islamabad there is currently little evidence of giving in to American demands.