KARACHI: A 50-word tweet was all it took to raise alarm bells in Pakistan as US President Donald Trump fired off on Pakistan for allegedly playing a double game in Afghanistan.
“The US has foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”
Trump’s first tweet of 2018 comes just days after a New York Times report that the Trump administration was considering withholding the release of an already-delayed $255 million payment over Islamabad’s failure to ‘do more’ in the war on terror.
The tweet is just the latest lowlight in the tailspin that the US-Pakistan relationship has been caught in since August when Trump accused Pakistan of giving “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror”.
There were signs of some improvement in the middle, with Trump tweeting in October that he was “Starting to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders,” as he thanked “them for their cooperation on many fronts.”
But despite this, the tweet though was less bolt-from-the-blue and more hint-not-taken. Weeks earlier, Trump had said, “We make massive payments every year to Pakistan. They have to help,” as he unveiled his national security strategy.
Just last week, Inter-Services Public Relations spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor rejected the Trump administration’s pressure to do more in the fight against terrorism, while insisting that Pakistan had done enough and could not do more for anyone.
Observers also noted that the unusually candid statement of defiance was delivered in English, indicating that the target audience included bureaucrats in Washington’s Foggy Bottom neighbourhood.
Maj Gen Ghafoor’s comments came on the heels of reports that US Vice President Mike Pence had, during a recent stop in Afghanistan, claimed that “for too long Pakistan has provided safe haven to the Taliban and many terrorist organisations, but those days are over. President Trump has put Pakistan on notice.” Earlier, in November, the top US general in Afghanistan, John Nicholson, said that he had not seen a change in Pakistan’s behaviour toward militants, despite the Trump administration’s tougher line against Islamabad.
Responding to the allegations that Pakistan is not doing enough in the war against terrorism, the ISPR DG said there was no organised infrastructure of any terrorist outfit inside Pakistan.
“We have fought an imposed and imported war twice in Pakistan, and now we cannot do any more for anyone,” he had said at the news conference.
He had also said that it was time for the US and Afghanistan to do more for Pakistan.
After listing a number of steps that Pakistan had taken to eliminate terror infrastructure on its soil, the military spokesperson said that after Pakistan launched a ground offensive in North Waziristan in June 2014, “No one can now ask or raise any doubts about Pakistan’s commitment to fighting this menace,” he said, referring to the Haqqanis in particular.
Despite his response to the threat of unilateral action by the US, where the ISPR director-general said no amount of coercion could work, he also emphasised that Pakistan and the US “are friends and allies who “need to work together” to achieve enduring peace in the region through engagement and cooperation.
When asked to comment on if President Trump’s earlier rhetoric would translate into reality, the ISPR chief said, “Announcing a policy is one thing but its implementation is another.”
Meanwhile, Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan ambassador in Washington, said on Twitter that Trump’s tweet was a “promising message to Afghans who have suffered at the hands of terrorists based in Pakistan for far too long.”