Washington (AFP) – US President Donald Trump lashed out at Pakistan on Monday in his first tweet of 2018, threatening to cut off aid over what he said were its “lies and deceit” in offering “safe haven to terrorists.”
The tweet brought a quick and pointed rejoinder from Pakistan, which said it had done much for the United States, helping it to “decimate” Al-Qaeda, while getting only “invective & mistrust” in return.
US-Pakistani ties, long contentious, have taken a nosedive under Trump, who in August declared that “Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror.”
“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,” Trump said in an early-morning tweet.
“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”
The Trump administration told Congress in August it was weighing whether to withhold $255 million in earmarked aid to Islamabad over its failure to crack down more effectively on terror groups in Pakistan.
– Haqqani network –
Last month, Trump hinted that he could cut off the aid.
“We make massive payments every year to Pakistan. They have to help,” he said in unveiling his national security strategy.
And in late December, Vice President Mike Pence told American troops during a visit to Afghanistan, “President Trump has put Pakistan on notice.”
Of foremost concern is Islamabad’s attitude toward the powerful Haqqani network, accused of some of the most lethal attacks on US forces in Afghanistan and dubbed by America’s former top military officer Mike Mullen as a “veritable arm” of Pakistani intelligence.
The group was responsible for kidnapping a Canadian-American couple and holding them from 2012 to 2017, when Pakistani forces secured their release in what they said was as a rescue operation but some US officials reportedly described as a “negotiated handover.”
Trump hailed their return as a clear sign of progress, but his attitude has since hardened.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif responded angrily to Trump’s tweet, telling Geo television in an Urdu-language interview: “The United States should hold its own people accountable for its failures in Afghanistan.”
He said all funds from the US had been “properly audited” and that “services (were) rendered.”
And Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan tweeted that Pakistan “as anti-terror ally has given…