US-Pak row escalates as White house announces more ‘action’
Washington, Jan 03: A day after Washington confirmed suspending $255 million of military aid to Pakistan, the White House said that further action against Pakistan would be announced in the next 24-48 hours.
Addressing a daily press briefing on Wednesday, US Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that the actions being taken against Islamabad by Washington are a follow-up to Trump’s South Asia policy announced last year.
“The president is simply following through on a commitment that he made,” she said, referring to Trump’s speech in which he had accused Pakistan of “not fulfilling its obligations”.
“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations,” Trump had said in August last year, warning that vital aid could be cut.
“We know that Pakistan can do more to fight terrorism, and we want them to step up and do that,” the press secretary said on Wednesday, adding that Trump feels Pakistan “is not doing enough” to combat terrorism.
She said that information on further action against Pakistan would be made available over the next couple of days.
“In terms of specific actions, I think you’ll see some more details come out on that in the next 24 to 48 hours,” Sanders told the US media.
The White House’s move to suspend military aid has been seen as the first step to implementing President Donald Trump’s pledge to tighten economic restrictions on Pakistan.
Military aid to Islamabad was cut after Trump, in a tweet, accused Pakistan of being a liar.
The tweet had come in the aftermath of an increasingly terse back-and-forth between Washington and Islamabad since Trump announced his administration’s latest national security strategy.
During the announcement, the US president had been quick to remind Pakistan of its ‘obligation’ to help America “because it receives massive payments” from Washington every year.
“We have made clear to Pakistan that while we desire continued partnership, we must see decisive action against terrorist groups operating on their territory. And we make massive payments every year to Pakistan. They have to help,” the US president had said.
A Pentagon report to the US Congress, released to the media on Dec 17, had said Washington would also take ‘unilateral steps’ in areas of divergence with Pakistan while expanding cooperation between the two countries where their interests converge.
Subsequently, US Vice President Mike Pence had, in a surprise visit to Afghanistan’s Bagram airbase on Dec 22, warned that Trump has “put Pakistan on notice” in what was the harshest US warning to Islamabad since the beginning of the Afghan war over 16 years ago.
The Pakistan Army spokesman, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, had at a press conference last week asserted that the aid Pakistan received from the US was “reimbursement for support we gave to the coalition for its fight against Al Qaeda.”
“Had we not supported the US and Afghanistan, they would never have been able to defeat Al Qaeda,” he had said.
“The armed forces are working with friends and want to continue doing so, but there can be no compromise on our national honour. We do not want a conflict with our friends, but will ensure the security of Pakistan,” he had added.
His briefing was considered perhaps the strongest-ever reaction from Islamabad since US functionaries began alluding to the possibility of unilateral action.
Hitting back at the US, the civilian-controlled Foreign Office (FO) had also warned against the “malicious campaign” being “used to trivialise Pakistan’s achievements in the war against terrorism”, and noted that “allies do not put each other on notice.”
The FO had further complained that recent US statements are “at variance with the extensive conversations we [Islamabad] have had with the US administration”.