President Trump went down a path all too common over the course of the US war in Afghanistan in singling out Pakistan as a problem with the war, accusing them of providing “safe zones” for militants and not doing enough to support America’s war. Other US officials threatened to cut Pakistan’s aid over the matter.
Pakistani officials responded with annoyance to this latest flurry of attention, with Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif saying the US “should not make Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures.” Pakistan’s military chief Gen. Bajwa met with the US Ambassador, saying Pakistan has done a lot to try to support peace in Afghanistan.
This is a very political issue in the region. Pakistan’s ISI spy agency has long supported the Taliban in tribal regions as an irregular support force in the event of war with India. India, at the same time, has gotten close with the Afghan government, and convinced them to publicly blame Pakistan for the Taliban’s continued presence across Afghanistan.
In reality though, Pakistan has limited ability to eliminate groups operating in the tribal areas. To the extent they keep trying, angry US criticism that it’s not enough is fueling growing anti-American sentiment across Pakistan. At some point, Pakistan will simply be unable to “do more” at America’s behest, and by then the public will be so sick of being asked, it’s likely to fuel a backlash.