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What does US want Pakistan to do on terrorism? Details in next 24-48 hrs

The White House, in the past week, said it was withholding payment of $255 million in military assistance to Pakistan for lack of decisive action against terrorism.

world Updated: Jan 03, 2018 14:12 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
US-Pakistan relations,counter-terrorism,President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump at meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (Reuters)

The White House has said it will soon release details of the “specific actions” it wants Pakistan to take for combating terrorism in return for aid.

The US, in the past week, said it was withholding payment of $255 million in military assistance to Pakistan for lack of decisive action against terrorism. President Donald Trump followed that up with a threat to stop all aid, stating that the US has paid Pakistan $33 billion over the past 15 years in return for mere “lies & deceit”.

“No more,” he added for emphasis.

“We know that Pakistan can do more to fight terrorism, and we want them to step up and do that,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Tuesday. “In terms of specific actions, I think you’ll see some more details come out in the next 24 to 48 hours.”

State department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters at her daily briefing that Pakistan needs “to earn, essentially, the money we have provided in the past in foreign military assistance, they need to show that they are sincere in their efforts to crack down on terrorists”.

Neither of the two, however, offered details of these “specific actions”. Also, it could not be immediately ascertained if they will be different from the “very specific requests” given to Pakistan by secretary of state Rex Tillerson in October, or secretary of defense James Mattis in December.

In the absence of more information, experts are turning to a paper written in 2017 that called upon Trump to get tough with Pakistan. It was co-authored by former Pakistani ambassador to US Husain Haqqani and then think-tanker Lisa Curtis, who now heads the South Asia desk in the President’s National Security Council.

They had recommended a timeline-based sequence: Pakistan must imprison known terrorist leaders; shut down terror-training camps and disrupt terror financing; stem infiltration of militants across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir; end support to the Taliban and prevent its leaders from living and meeting in Pakistan; and curtail the export of arms, explosives and ammunition to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Though the administration cited no specific incident for the decision to withhold the $255 million in funds or threaten aid shutdown, this was widely expected in the wake of Trump’s statement at the unveiling of his new South Asia strategy that Pakistan received billions from the United States but continued to enable “the very terrorists we are fighting”.

And now, he actually means to do just that — hold Pakistan accountable and stop all aid, if necessary. “The President is willing to go to great lengths to stop all funding from Pakistan as they continue to harbour and support terrorism,” US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said on Tuesday.

Pakistan has received $33.92 billion in aid from the United States since 2002, the year after US invaded neighbouring Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime for refusing to give up Osama bin Laden – who masterminded the September 11 terrorist attacks – and other al Qaeda leaders.

These payments are a combination of economic and security-related assistance, including disbursements under the Coalition Support Fund that the US pays to member-countries of the international coalition force in Afghanistan. Pakistan accounted for the largest chunk of the amount — $14.57 billion — since 2002.

First Published: Jan 03, 2018 00:00 IST