US aid cut feeding anti-American sentiments : Op-Ed

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US aid cut feeding anti-American sentiments : Op-Ed

WASHINGTON: The move by the Trump administration to cut security assistance to Pakistan is feeding anti-American sentiments and would make it difficult for the country to cooperate with the United States, according to an opinion article published in the online political magazine “The Hill”.

After a tweet by President Trump  in which he criticized Pakistan, the U.S. State Department announced this month to withhold security assistance to Pakistan, accusing Pakistan of not fully cooperating in the fight against terrorism and allegedly providing safe havens to certain terrorist groups. Pakistan has vehemently rejected these allegations, reminding its cooperation and commitment to fight terrorist in all its form.

 Madiha Afzal, who teaches at John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, wrote in the article that no one should expect Pakistan to submit to a US president and that President Trump’s public move to cut off aid feeds one of Pakistan’s most popular narratives – that of American betrayal. 

While anti-American sentiments are nothing new, the article observed that sentiments sour when Pakistanis perceive America as violating national sovereignty and as being unfair to the country.

The country’s politicians have seized on Trump’s words to reinforce the narrative of American betrayal, while Islamists and fundamentalists have taken to streets to protest the US aid cut, the article said and noted that “cooperation with America in this climate will be political anathema” at a time when the country is to hold general elections this year.

The article noted that Pakistanis believe that America uses their country with “ruthless expediency, abandoning support when it does not serve US interests”. Quoting her interviews with people during her research for a book on extremism in Pakistan, the author said that many Pakistanis are of the view that there is a line to be drawn between “American interference in the region and Pakistan’s own problems”.

“Anti-Americanism is not only a problem for cooperation between the US and the Pakistani state; it also feeds into extremism in the country. Religious fundamentalists and militant groups use anti-American propaganda to generate support,” the author wrote.

According to the author, Pakistani citizens are baffled by the American obsession with the Haqqani group, adding that people have not seen these militants and have never been attacked by the said group. And, as the government has strongly denied support to any terrorist group, the writer said that people do not know what to make of the US claims of “militant sanctuaries”.

Emphasizing the need of continuing civilian aid to Pakistan, the author said that: “Engagement with the Pakistani public is necessary if we expect any sincere cooperation from the country in the future. “