Do more to curb terrorism or aid will be cut, US warns Pakistan

WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD • The United States has accused Pakistan of playing a "double game" on fighting terrorism, and warned Islamabad it would have to do more if it wanted to maintain US aid.

"They can do more to stop terrorism, and we want them to do that," White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Tuesday.

The White House said it would likely announce actions to pressure Pakistan within days, shortly after US Ambassador Nikki Haley said at the United Nations that Washington would withhold US$255 million (S$339 million) in assistance to Pakistan.

"There are clear reasons for this. Pakistan has played a double game for years," Ms Haley told reporters.

"They work with us at times, and they also harbour the terrorists that attack our troops in Afghanistan.

"That game is not acceptable to this administration. We expect far more cooperation from Pakistan in the fight against terrorism."

The comments followed an angry tweet from President Donald Trump on Monday that the US had been rewarded with"nothing but lies and deceit" for "foolishly" giving Pakistan more than US$33 billion in aid in the past 15 years.

"They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!" he tweeted.

Pakistan civilian and military chiefs on Tuesday rejected "incomprehensible" US comments, and summoned American Ambassador David Hale to explain Mr Trump's tweet.

Pakistani UN Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi said in a statement that her country's fight against terrorism was not based on any consideration of aid, but on national interests and principles.

"We have contributed and sacrificed the most in fighting international terrorism and carried out the largest counter-terrorism operation anywhere in the world," Dr Lodhi said. "We can review our cooperation if it is not appreciated."

Pakistani officials also insist that Mr Trump has his figures wrong, taking aim at his claim that the US had "foolishly" given it US$33 billion since 2002.

"About US$14 billion of that US$33 billion was part of the coalition support fund, which was compensation for services rendered," Dr Miftah Ismail, an adviser to the Prime Minister on finance, revenue and economic affairs, said in an interview. "Our billings were for US$22 billion, and we got only US$14 billion. So, we think the US owes us US$8 billion."

Relations with Washington have been strained for years over Islamabad's alleged support for Haqqani network militants, who are allied with the Afghan Taleban.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday chaired a National Security Committee meeting of civilian and military chiefs, focusing on Mr Trump's tweet. The meeting, which lasted nearly three hours, was brought forward by a day and followed an earlier meeting of army generals.

The committee, in a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office, did not name Mr Trump, but spoke of deep disappointment at a slew of critical comments from US officials over the past few months.

"Recent statements and articulation by the American leadership were completely incomprehensible as they contradicted facts manifestly, struck with great insensitivity at the trust between two nations built over generations, and negated the decades of sacrifices made by the Pakistani nation," it said.

REUTERS, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2018, with the headline 'Do more to curb terrorism or aid will be cut, US warns Pakistan'. Print Edition | Subscribe