The systemic impunity of US foreign policy continues to haunt Pakistan

The systemic impunity of US foreign policy continues to haunt Pakistan

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Against the backdrop of Pakistan engaging in ceasefire talks with the TTP to provide relief to an embattled territory, decades of misguided and reckless decisions made by the US have come once again to the fore, as well as its systemic hypocrisy-- all while the invasion of Ukraine rages on.

For its own failures in Afghanistan-- evidenced by an investigation into hidden Pentagon records which revealed a pattern of deadly airstrikes, civilian deaths, cover ups and lack of accountability-- the US has always used Pakistan as a scapegoat. No US administration ever acknowledged its own role but continues to pin the blame on Pakistan for harbouring terrorists despite the fact that Pakistan continues to pay the heaviest price. The 2014 attack on APS-Peshawar that killed 134 students is one of the darkest days in our nation’s history.

It was the CIA’s nefarious designs in Waziristan that were responsible for creating TTP to act as a potent destabilizing force inside Pakistan. And since the Taliban took over in August last year, Pakistan has been pleading with them to crack down on TTP, whose cross-border attacks have reportedly led to over 100 military deaths in April alone. 

Negotiating with the TTP is nothing short of trying to thread a needle. On the one hand, authorities have to avoid mainstreaming a terrorist outfit whose leaders have blood on their hands, while at the same time trying to ensure that an agreement can guarantee lasting peace. And they usually never do, as militants use the ceasefire period to regroup, engage with their bases and procure resources. The Pakistani negotiating team has to stay in the driving seat as any unreasonable concession given to TTP, such as their demand to reverse the FATA merger, will draw widespread public rebuke.  

The Pakistani negotiating team has to stay in the driving seat as any unreasonable concession given to TTP, such as their demand to reverse the FATA merger, will draw widespread public rebuke. 

Azwar Shakeel

On top of this, the situation is further compounded by the US’s hard-line economic stance against the Taliban, which is curtailing aid from reaching those in need, and creating a grave humanitarian situation. The US needs to understand that such policies create further resentment within the Afghan public, which Taliban uses to legitimize their rule. It also creates a breeding ground for further recruits, and disincentivizes the Taliban to crack down on TTP. Regional countries, especially Pakistan, suffer the most.

The US does not just identify threats, it actively creates them. Just take former President George W Bush’s recent gaffe during a speech in which he implicated himself in a war crime. While addressing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Bush mistakenly described the invasion of Iraq as “the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion.” Bush jokingly attributed the slip to his age as some members of the audience laughed. However, parts of the world that have experienced the brutal impact of unnecessary US incursions into their homes felt nothing but anger. 

This slip up cannot just be attributed to a 75-year-old with a loose mind. It speaks volumes to the sheer recklessness and systemic impunity of US foreign policy.

For those who were not anchored by cognitive bias, it did not require a 2.6 million words Chilcot Report to realize that the US and UK entered Iraq based on flawed intelligence and doctored evidence. The ill-fated decision to invade killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, displaced millions and created a breeding ground for Daesh.

No member of the Bush, or Tony Blair administration, has ever stood trial at the International Criminal Court in Hague, despite clear violations of the Geneva Conventions. Yet when evidence of civilian casualties in Bucha, a town on the outskirts of Kyiv, were revealed, the US led the international effort to ensure Russian leaders stand trial for war crimes in ICC.

Events in Ukraine are undoubtedly condemnable and represent a stain on the moral fabric of civilization, but so were US actions in Iraq and in Afghanistan. The West accuses Russia of “waging aggressive war” and “crimes against peace”, both prosecutable in the ICC-- while they stand accused of the same. The East has been crying hoarse over such allegations but to no avail. This evidences the extent to which the US and West shape global ideology and worldview.

Unfortunately, the US continues to disregard its own transgressions as inevitable necessities, while policing global morality. Nevertheless, we hope for a future where accountability is determined not by power dynamics, but by a universal set of laws applied equally to all. 

- The writer is a lawyer who completed his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He writes extensively on domestic and international socio-political topics, for various publications, including DAWN and The Friday Times. Twitter @azwarshakeel12.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view