WASHINGTON: The White House has confirmed suspending $255 million of military aid to Pakistan, a move seen as the first step to implementing President Donald Trump’s pledge to tighten economic restrictions on Pakistan.

In his first tweet of the New Year, President Trump accused Pakistan on Monday of basing its relationship with the US on “nothing but lies and deceit”. He claimed that the US gave $33 billion aid to Pakistan over the last 15 years but in return “they give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more”.

Hours after the tweet, White House spokesman Raj Shah told reporters in Washington that “the United States does not plan to spend the $255 million in ... foreign military financing (FMF) for Pakistan at this time”.

The money, set aside for providing military training and equipment to Pakistan, has already been appropriated by the Congress.

A spokesman for the White House National Security Council also told reporters that “Pakistan’s actions in support of the (new US) South Asia strategy will ultimately determine the trajectory of our relationship, including future security assistance”.

He said that President Trump had already conveyed this message to Islamabad, making it clear that “the United States expects Pakistan to take decisive action against terrorists and militants on its soil”.

Various US media outlets reported on Tuesday that the Trump administration had informed Pakistan in August that it was temporarily withholding the $255m, which was part of a $1.1bn aid package authorised in 2016 by the Congress. The money was put on hold until Pakistan agreed to do more to combat terrorist networks.

Official sources told Dawn last week that the Trump administration was adding to existing cuts on reimbursements to Pakistan by withholding $255m from the FMF. When added to the $350m withheld from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), the aid cuts reduce the annual US aid package to Pakistan from an estimated $1,100m (1.1bn) to less than $500m.

‘Double game’

The US was withholding $255m in aid from Pakistan because of its failure to cooperate fully in America’s fight against terrorism, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said, according to Reuters.

“The administration is withholding $255m in assistance to Pakistan. There are clear reasons for this. Pakistan has played a double game for years,” she told reporters at the United Nations.

“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.”

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2018

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