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Trump’s Afghan Strategy Has A Pakistan Sized Hole In It

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent

President Donald Trump’s pledge to put renewed pressure on Pakistan to reduce its tolerance of terrorist safe havens may severely impact NATO and U.S. supply lines.

NATO has approximately 20,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan that predominantly rely on Pakistani land routes for its supplies. Pakistan also has a history of retaliatory severance of U.S. shipments bound for Afghanistan, significantly increasing costs for the U.S. and NATO.

Trump made increased pressure on Pakistan a lynchpin of his strategy to increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to support the Afghan National Security Forces in the fight against the Taliban.

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond. Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists,” Trump declared Aug. 21.

Trump’s declarations are likely to manifest in the withholding of annual U.S. aid dollars, possible sanctions against the country, and increased diplomatic pressure. A senior administration official characterized the future U.S. stance towards the country as a “substantially tougher approach to Pakistan than you’ve seen from the United States, and probably since shortly after the 9/11 attacks.” Any of these actions could trigger another round of Pakistani cuts to Afghan-bound U.S. shipments.

NATO and the U.S. can use northern airbases to ferry supplies to their troops, albeit at massively higher costs. A nearly seven-month shutdown of the U.S. supply lines through Pakistan in 2011 and 2012 cost the U.S. approximately $90 million extra dollars in operating costs, Defense News noted Sunday.

U.S. military commanders, however, believe that increased pressure on Pakistan is necessary. The Taliban now controls approximately 40 percent of the entire country of Afghanistan and one-third of the population. Afghan civilian casualties are also at a 16-year high in the war as a result of Taliban improvised explosive devices.

“No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service-members and officials,” Trump declared in his speech.

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