Pakistan slams US 'betrayal' in suspending military aid

ISLAMABAD • Pakistani officials have denounced the Trump administration's decision to suspend military assistance, decrying what they called "arbitrary deadlines" and "unilateral pronouncements", while members of the opposition called for retaliation.

In one of the harshest actions in years between the troubled allies, the Trump administration moved last Thursday to block an estimated US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) in military aid at the end of a week that began with the President accusing the Pakistanis of years of "lies and deceit".

State Department officials said they are holding back the aid as an incentive for Pakistan to take "decisive action" to rid its lands of terrorist safe havens. It also placed the country on a watch list of nations failing to protect religious freedom.

"Working towards enduring peace requires mutual respect and trust along with patience and persistence," Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement last Friday. "Arbitrary deadlines, unilateral pronouncements and shifting goal posts are counterproductive in addressing common threats."

In an interview on Thursday with the Geo News channel, Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said that the United States was now neither a friend nor ally, but "a friend who always betrays".

The opposition in Pakistan, meanwhile, called for concrete actions to retaliate against the US move.

Opposition leader Imran Khan has called for Pakistan to expel some US diplomatic personnel and cut off supply routes for the US-led coalition forces from the port city of Karachi to landlocked Afghanistan, as well as close its airspace to American forces.

Analysts fear the escalating tension could have a long-standing impact on regional security and the US' ongoing efforts in Afghanistan, where troop levels now stand at 14,000.

"There is little doubt that both are on a collision course and their bilateral relationship is set for a very rough ride, if back channel efforts are not made to address the US concerns," said Mr Vinay Kaura, an Indian security analyst.

Islamabad and Washington settled into an uneasy alliance after the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001, with Pakistan arresting Al-Qaeda operatives and allowing drone attacks inside its airspace.

But the relationship has grown more contentious since 2011, when US Special Forces killed Osama bin Laden in a raid in the military garrison town of Abbottabad.

The US, which has given Pakistan more than US$20 billion in reimbursements and military assistance since 2002, has repeatedly pressed the Pakistanis to do something about Taleban and Haqqani network militants operating inside Pakistan that launch attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan, officials said.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 07, 2018, with the headline 'Pakistan slams US 'betrayal' in suspending military aid'. Print Edition | Subscribe