Trump said, “It is time to expose and hold responsible those countries who support and finance terror groups like al-Qaida, Hezbollah, the Taliban, and others that slaughter innocent people.
The UN statement is a continuation of his Afghanistan/South Asia strategy where Pakistan was put on notice as the country which was the sanctuary to the Taliban, long regarded as the reason why the Taliban received continued oxygen. Trump kept his attention on the core issue of his South Asia policy, that he talked about couple of weeks ago. “The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan. 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’s remarks come just days before US defence secretary James Mattis is scheduled to visit India as both courntries work out the contours of a collaborative approach to Afghanistan. India is expected to step up its game in Afghanistan and go beyond the current levels of economic assistance to Afghanistan. India will have a more difficult role to play with Russia which has intervened in Afghanistan — on the side of the Taliban, and therefore Pakistan.
Pakistan has also threatened that the US move would drive it closer to China, and decrease US leverage. But this has been happening for some time anyway, said sources. On the other hand, with Pakistan in the US crosshairs on terrorism, China would face headwinds in its own expanding footprint inside Pakistan.
Far more important is the fact that Trump has denied Taliban the dignity of a legitimate political actor in Afghanistan, preferring to keep them in the terrorist bracket. This robs Pakistan of a key argument but is also a course correction by Washington – the US had refrained from designating Taliban a terror group to leave the door open for future negotiations.