Two days into new year, one Trump tweet literally starts a fire

Early on in 2018 it appears foreign policy may end up dominating the theme of the second year in the Trump administration. However, I would counsel President Trump that foreign policy should not be conveyed via “tweets.” Such a social media post has set things ablaze, literally, in the country of Pakistan.

As reported by CBS, “President Trump’s New Year’s Day lambasting of Pakistan on Twitter has drawn an angry response on the streets and an official summoning of the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad to demand an explanation. 

The president began the second year of his presidency with confrontational tweets targeting Pakistan and Iran. He slammed Islamabad on Monday for “lies & deceit,” saying the country had played U.S. leaders for “fools,” by not doing enough to control Islamic militants. 

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” 

On the streets of Karachi, meanwhile, scores of protesters hit the streets to voice their anger at Mr. Trump’s rhetoric. The demonstration, organized by an umbrella group of religious-political parties, saw angry protesters burn an image of the U.S. leader and U.S. flags, as they chanted anti-American slogans. The U.S. has long accused Islamabad of allowing militants to operate relatively freely in Pakistan’s border regions to carry out operations in neighboring Afghanistan. In August, the United States said it would hold up $255 million in military assistance for Pakistan until it cracks down on extremists threatening Afghanistan.”

Having spent two-and-a-half years in Afghanistan, I can say there’s no debate about the fact that Pakistan is the greatest hindrance to stability in Afghanistan. It’s a well-known fact that Pakistan is the hotbed of Islamic jihadism. It is without a doubt the largest sanctuary for the training and equipping of Islamic terrorists in the world.

In Pakistan, the madrassa schools prepare the next generation of jihadists. There is a proliferation of Islamic terrorists, namely al-Qaeda, Taliban, ISIS, and the Haqqani Network. These groups are thriving, and I find the level of anti-American protests interesting in Karachi which is one of those major centers of Islamic jihadism, the other being Quetta, where the Shura Council of the Taliban sits.

The United States has been working with and hoping the Pakistani government would be more forthright in eradicating these terrorist sanctuaries, but to no avail. It’s common knowledge that during the “off-season” of fighting in Afghanistan, the terrorists retreat across the border to Pakistan for reconsolidating as the high mountain passes become closed due to snow. Once the snow melts and the spring comes, these same jihadists flood right back across the border from Pakistan.

President Trump is completely right in his assertion, but the means of conveying the message is where I disagree. President Trump must come to realize that these particular issues of foreign policy and national security cannot be done by social media.

It would be far more preferable for President Trump to use the press statement system, or perhaps conduct a monthly press conference to cover these important issues. The critical aspect now is to develop the strategy to engage Pakistan.

First, as we continue operations in Afghanistan, under better rules of engagement, we need to seek means of logistical support that evades using the land networks in Pakistan. If we could develop the air corridor resupply system to beat the Berlin blockade, we should be able to do likewise in Afghanistan. After all, this is the United States of America, and our greatest military advantage is our strategic maneuverability and logistical capability. We must send a clear message to Pakistan that we will no longer depend upon your road networks for resupply of our forces. This also reduces the instances of Islamic jihadist attacks on those “jingo trucks” that transport those supplies.

Second, we need to send a clear message that if the Islamic jihadists don’t respect borders or boundaries, we shall neither. This means we we’ll not only operate within the “AO” (Area of Operations) but also extend into the “AI” (Area of Influence). We have the technology and surveillance capability to track the enemy into their Pakistan based sanctuaries. Our doctrine must be that there will be no sanctuaries for Islamic jihadists. And we reserve the right to share our intelligence and targeting information as we desire.

In other words, we will not be asking for permission, nor shall we beg for forgiveness. Pakistan must come to a realization that they can no longer sit astride the fence; they need to choose which side they’re on. No, I’m not talking about deploying US troops into Pakistan, but rather the conduct of limited, targeted raids against designated high value targets meeting our engagement criteria.

Along with this, we need a contingency plan on the table to deal with the Pakistani nuclear capability. It is imperative that does not fall into the hands of the Islamic jihadists as a leverage tool. We must always have a force capability ready to move against this possibility.

Lastly, the United States needs to better our relations with India. Students of history know Pakistan is a state created by the British as a bulwark against the Afghans, a punishment of sorts. And the Durand Line enabled this “artificial” state to be created. No, I’m not speaking of some erasing of Pakistan, but just as with the Sykes-Picot Treaty post-World War I, we are contending with the failures of these European colonial endeavors.

Pakistan is a hodgepodge of Pashtun, Punjabi, and Balochi peoples, just to mention a few. But one thing is for certain, the billions in military aid sent to Pakistan is not being utilized to deny Islamic jihadists sanctuary; it’s being used to build the Pakistani military to fight against India. Cutting off this military aid to Pakistan will go a long way to sending a message to India that we’re serious about cracking down on the Islamic jihadist sanctuary state of Pakistan.

None of this can effectively be done via tweeting, and I would suspect we’ll hear more about this in the coming weeks. Needless to say, this is another important topic for President Trump’s first State of the Union address. Iran and Pakistan are two primary supporters of Islamic jihadism in the world. A dedicated effort to eradicate their support would be a monumental victory in the conflagration against the global Islamic jihad…but we still have to deny this enemy sanctuary within our own borders!

[Learn more about Allen West’s vision for this nation in his book Guardian of the Republic: An American Ronin’s Journey to Faith, Family and Freedom]