U.S. President Trump posted on Twitter late Friday “Good Idea Rand!” in response to a tweet from Senator Rand Paul about ending aid to Pakistan.
Paul said in his Tweet, “I’m introducing a bill to end aid to Pakistan in the coming days. My bill will take the money that would have gone to Pakistan and put it in an infrastructure fund to build roads and bridges here at home.”
The Trump administration announced Thursday it was freezing military aid to Pakistan, and said it would remain frozen until Islamabad takes “decisive action” against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. The funding freeze affects $1 billion for military equipment and another $900 million in payments to defray the cost of counterterrorism operations, officials said Friday.
“There has been ample time for Pakistan to show that it is taking our requests seriously,” a senior U.S. administration official said Friday.
“We have made very clear what our expectations are,” the official said. “Unfortunately, we have not seen the type of meaningful action we are seeking.” But Pakistan’s military dismissed the U.S. action as a meaningless deterrent that would serve only to undermine security cooperation and regional peace efforts.
“Pakistan never fought for money but for peace,” army spokesman Major-General Asif Ghafoor told VOA.
Ghafoor also denied U.S. allegations that Pakistan was giving either the Taliban or the Haqqanis any sort of safe haven from which they can attack U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
Military-led counterterrorism operations, Ghafoor said, have targeted terrorists “indiscriminately,” including the Haqqani network at a “heavy cost of blood and treasure.” He insisted there are no more “organized” terrorist sanctuaries inside Pakistan.
“Casting doubts on our will is not good to our common objective of moving toward enduring peace and stability. Pakistan shall continue its sincere efforts in [the] best interest of Pakistan and peace,” the army spokesman said.
In a separate statement Friday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry criticized the U.S. for “arbitrary deadlines” and “unilateral pronouncements.” It asserted that Islamabad has fought the anti-terrorism war “largely” from its own financial resources.
“Emergence of new and more deadly groups such as Daesh in Afghanistan call for enhancing international cooperation,” the Pakistani statement said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
And the ministry called U.S. pressure “counterproductive in addressing common threats.”
The war of words between the two allies was triggered Monday, when U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to slash funding for Pakistan, accusing it on Twitter of providing a haven to terrorists and playing U.S. leaders for “fools.”
In his Twitter comments, Trump said Washington has received “nothing but lies and deceits” in return for giving Pakistan more than $33 billion in the last 15 years.
Pakistani officials say they have received $14 billion and that Washington still owes the country $9 billion.Both the U.S. action and Trump’s remarks have upset many in Pakistan.
A leading opposition politician, Imran Khan, on Friday demanded the government categorically refuse to accept any future U.S. assistance in the wake of Trump’s remarks.
“Despite Pakistan clearing up North Waziristan, still half of Afghanistan is in Taliban hands. So, who is responsible for this?” Khan asked. “To make Pakistan the scapegoat of a failed strategy in Afghanistan is not just a travesty of justice, it is deeply insulting and humiliating.”
Despite the tough talk, some U.S. officials are hopeful Washington and Islamabad can resolve their differences.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters Friday that; “We are still working with Pakistan and we will restore the aid if we see decisive movements against the terrorists, who are as much of a threat against Pakistan as they are against us.”
Senior U.S. officials also said some of the suspended funding could be made available on a case-by-case basis in order to protect U.S. national security interests. A senior U.S. official warned, however, that the government in Islamabad had pushed President Trump’s patience past its limits.
The official said; “He’s monitoring Pakistan and how Pakistan has responded to our requests. It was a matter of frustration. The kinds of information that were coming to him were not satisfying.”