America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America – even if we take Trump’s figure at face value, $33 billion pales in comparison to the amount Pakistan has lost from its economy due to taking part in the American war. Estimates range to an annual loss of $7-9 billion per annum, which even if taking the lower figure across 15 years comes to $105 billion.
America and its NATO forces can only exist in Afghanistan if they can maintain their supply lines to its bases in Afghanistan through Pakistan, since Afghanistan is land locked and doesn’t have a coast line.
So it gets the bulk of its supplies to its occupation forces by shipping them to the port in Karachi and then transporting them by land through the border into Afghanistan. There is another route by air through the North of Afghanistan but this increases transport costs by about 3 times, so it is really prohibitively expensive apart from some short-term urgent supply operation in comparison to the Karachi route, plus this northern route goes via Central Asia where Russia has influence. And the supplies we are talking about range from everything from doughnuts to tanks and attack helicopters with everything in between.
Militarily whilst it may have the technology it doesn’t have the network amongst local armed groups like Pakistan does to influence the direction of the war, so it needs Pakistan for what is ultimately a political solution for the country.
The problem for the US is, nearly every Pakistani will reject the US occupation in the region so what they have to do is create the political cover for the Pakistani leadership to provide the assistance America needs without producing mass riots in Pakistan.
The way they do this is through a combination of means. These include the paltry “aid” which Trump is talking about (which is linked to results of the war rather than general development) but more importantly a political narrative that the war taking place is in Pakistan’s interest and not a foreign one. They create an environment where they show that the Pakistani leadership doesn’t just do what America tells it and that because of this there are tensions between the two when in reality there are none.
If there were real tensions with real risk to America, you would see its supply lines being cut from Karachi as one example and the entire war would grind to a halt in a few weeks. The reality is the Pakistani leadership does largely what America wants it to do whilst trying to project an image of independence to its people and some elements of its armed forces who may have questions about what is going on.
As another example, Pakistan is building a massive fence along its border with Afghanistan to help America control the flow of fighters to Afghanistan and this will run for hundreds of kilometres.
This tweet from Trump is in line with this narrative of the past 15 years of keeping up the pretence of there being tensions between a master and its slaves in the Pakistani leadership so that the anti-occupation public and elements of the military are shown that Pakistan is doing things on its own terms.
So after all that, it really boils down to the direction the political leadership in Pakistan is taking and its lack of political will in exerting itself without even having to go to war with America if it really wanted to stop the occupation in Afghanistan. And this is the same theme of political treachery you see with different actors and different plots to the story across the Muslims world whether it be Saudi, Turkey, Egypt or whoever.
Ultimately, the rulers in all these places are traitors but because of their people and what Islam says of Muslim brotherhood and unity, they try to hide behind an apparent lack of capability in changing the situation when all they really lack is the political will to change. They all, to varying degrees, are afraid of their people rising up so take various actions to stop this, ranging from elaborate charades of arguing with countries like America to outright oppression of their own people.
If enough people were to realise this then these rulers would not last very long. The ayah from Surah Al-Ankabut comes to mind about the situation where Allah (swt) says:
مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُوا مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ أَوْلِيَاءَ كَمَثَلِ الْعَنكَبُوتِ اتَّخَذَتْ بَيْتًا وَإِنَّ أَوْهَنَ الْبُيُوتِ لَبَيْتُ الْعَنْكَبُوتِ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ
“The example of those who take allies other than Allah is like that of the spider who takes a home. And indeed, the weakest of homes is the home of the spider, if they only knew.” [Al-Ankabut: 41]
Written for the Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir by Adnan Khan