President Donald Trump is appearing to follow through on a threat to punish Pakistan for being a safe haven for terrorists.
The White House has announced it will freeze all security assistance to the country until it begins to cooperate more with the U.S. government and military in combating terrorism.
The decision comes after months of what the Trump administration describes as stonewalling and resistance from Pakistani officials in dealing with the terrorist entities working within the country’s borders.
“Pakistan has played a double game for years,” U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley stated as she announced the White House would continue to withhold $255 million in already-budgeted military aid, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The “double game” Haley is referring to is Pakistan’s manner of working with both the U.S. government and radical Islamist groups.
The U.N. ambassador said that, along with working with the U.S. on strategic missions, Pakistan at the same time harbors terrorists that target American troops deployed in Afghanistan.
The White House originally suspended military aid in August, but Haley’s announcement means the funds will continue to be withheld until Pakistan decides to change course. Moreover, the U.S. government could decide to hold back even more of the gravy train.
Taking the issue one step further on Thursday, the White House vowed to freeze over $1 billion in other forms of security aid — which could bring the total amount of security assistance withheld from Pakistan to around $1.3 billion.
However, the Islamic Republic would still be getting lots of money from the U.S. regardless. The funds in question do not affect the more than $220 million in health care and economic support the American government will continue to dole out to Pakistan.
The announcement of economic punishment is not surprising. The U.S. government has long complained that Pakistan was not a sincere partner in America’s war on terror, and the president himself used his first tweet of 2018 to air his grievances.
“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!” Trump tweeted.
The already-strained relationship between the two countries has further deteriorated after Pakistan refused to allow Washington to interrogate a captured member of the Haqqani network, a terrorist group that for years held prisoner a Canadian-American family until the U.S. strong-armed Pakistan into freeing them.
The country has, at many times before, refused U.S. access to people of interest.
More notably, Pakistani authorities have imprisoned Dr. Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani physician and the man most credited with helping U.S. forces locate and kill Osama bin Laden. Despite pleas from the American government, Pakistan continues to keep Afridi in jail on what many argue are dubious accusations.
The Trump administration has clearly lost patience.
Back in August, the president stated that the “next pillar” of his strategy for battling radical Islamic terrorism would include a “change in our approach to Pakistan.”
Addressing military personnel at Fort Meyer, Trump outlined a new strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia, and accused Pakistan of giving “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror.”
Those words were not lost on government officials in the Islamic Republic, who have responded by saying that their government has done plenty to fight terrorism and that their efforts have not been properly acknowledged.
Pakistan argues that its participation in the U.S. war on terror has resulted in more than $100 billion in economic losses and tens of thousands of lives lost.
“We did not fight for money,” Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, a spokesman of the Pakistani military, said Wednesday. “We have done enough and we cannot do any more.”
Not to be bullied by Washington, Pakistan says it can do without U.S. aid.
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