US ambassador summoned as Pakistan reacts to Trump tweet

Ambassador David Hale was asked to go to the Pakistani Foreign Ministry on Monday night.
Ambassador David Hale was asked to go to the Pakistani Foreign Ministry on Monday night.

He slams Islamabad for giving 'safe haven' to terrorists, says no more aid

ISLAMABAD • Pakistan summoned the US ambassador in a rare public rebuke after President Donald Trump lashed out at Islamabad with threats to cut aid over "lies" about militancy, an embassy spokesman said yesterday.

Ambassador David Hale was asked to go to the Foreign Ministry in the Pakistani capital on Monday night after Islamabad responded angrily to Mr Trump's allegations that it provided safe havens for militants, in the latest spat to rock their alliance.

Mr Trump used his first tweet of 2018 to tear into Islamabad. "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," he said in the early morning New Year's Day tweet. "They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!"

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was yesterday due to chair a Cabinet meeting that was expected to focus on Mr Trump's tweet. And the country's top civilian and military chiefs are expected to meet today to discuss deteriorating US ties.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif dismissed Mr Trump's comments as a political stunt borne out of frustration over US failures in Afghanistan, where Afghan Taleban militants have been gaining territory and carrying out major attacks.

"He has tweeted against us (Pakistan) and Iran for his domestic consumption," Mr Asif told Geo TV on Monday. "He is again and again displacing his frustrations on Pakistan over failures in Afghanistan as they are trapped in (a) dead-end street in Afghanistan."

Mr Trump's harsh words drew praise from Pakistan's old foe, India, and neighbouring Afghanistan, but long-time ally China defended Pakistan's record of combating terrorism.

Mr Asif added that Pakistan did not need US aid.

A National Security Council official, meanwhile, said the White House did not plan to send US$255 million (S$339 million) in aid to Pakistan "at this time" and that "the administration continues to review Pakistan's level of cooperation".

Mr Trump's harsh words drew praise from Pakistan's old foe, India, and neighbouring Afghanistan, but long-time ally China defended Pakistan's record of combating terrorism.

Mr Jitendra Singh, a junior minister in the Indian Prime Minister's Office, said Mr Trump's posturing has "vindicated India's stand as far as terror is concerned and as far as Pakistan's role in perpetrating terrorism is concerned".

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, asked during a regular briefing about Mr Trump's tweet, did not mention the US but defended Pakistan's contributions in counter-terrorism, saying: "We have said many times that Pakistan has put forth great effort and made great sacrifices in combating terrorism. It has made a prominent contribution to global anti-terror efforts."

Analysts say Mr Trump's tweet signals that fraught US-Pakistan ties are likely to worsen in 2018.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2018, with the headline 'US ambassador summoned as Pakistan reacts to Trump tweet'. Print Edition | Subscribe