Pakistan Has All the Leverage Over Trump

On Jan. 1, President Donald Trump offered his maiden tweet of 2018:

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!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018

Pakistan responded as it has in the past for being called out for its mendacity and perfidy: It rallied its trolls; it summoned the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad for a démarche; and, in all forums possible, it denied the allegations of nefarious deeds with all of the sincerity and credibility of the wholesome human resources manager of the Chicken Ranch.

Even as the tweet continued to titillate Trump enthusiasts in India and at home, however, the responsible members of Trump’s government were strategizing how to roll it back. Later that same day, a White House National Security Council spokesperson explained what, specifically, to expect: “The United States does not plan to spend the $255 million in FY 2016 foreign military financing for Pakistan at this time.” This is not the sweeping cutoff that Trump implied in his braggadocios tweet.

In fact, there is little that is, or ever will be, new in Trump’s Pakistan policy. That’s true for two simple reasons: the logistics of staying the course in Afghanistan and the night terrors triggered by imagining how terrifying Pakistan could be without American money.

Obama did the same thing, too, and nothing changed

Trump is not the first U.S. president to express distaste for Pakistan’s actions. In August 2007, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama threatened to undertake unilateral military strikes against the terrorists harbored by Pakistan. Obama, upon being president, took the fight to Pakistan with his zealous use of airstrikes by remotely piloted aerial vehicles. Moreover, in March 2009, when Obama announced his so-called Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, he specifically identified the latter as a terrorist safe haven. You know, eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard.” And it was Obama who ordered U.S. Navy SEALs to unilaterally attack a compound near Pakistan’s famed military academy in which Osama bin Laden had been residing in plain sight for numerous years.

The Obama administration also withheld funds from Pakistan for…

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