WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD: The US, accusing Pakistan of playing a ‘double game’ on fighting terrorism, has said it will unveil actions this week designed to force Pakistan to crack down on terrorism on its soil, escalating a war of words that has brought their uneasy alliance to a crisis point.
“They can do more to stop terrorism and we want them to do that,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters, warning Islamabad it would have to do more if it wanted to maintain US aid.
The White House said it would likely announce actions to pressure Pakistan within days, shortly after US Ambassador Nikki Haley said at the United Nations that Washington would withhold $255 million in assistance to Pakistan.
“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 said, adding, “We know that Pakistan can do more to fight terrorism, and we want them to step up and do that.”
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley accused Islamabad of playing a ‘double game’ by claiming to support the US-led war against terrorism while providing a haven to terrorist groups.
“They work with us at times, and they also harbour the terrorists that attack our troops in Afghanistan,” Haley said.
“That game is not acceptable to this administration. We expect far more co-operation from Pakistan in the fight against terrorism.”
The comments followed an angry tweet from President Donald Trump on Monday that the United States had been rewarded with “nothing but lies and deceit” for ‘foolishly’ giving Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid in the past 15 years.
“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” he tweeted.
Pakistan civilian and military leadership on Tuesday rejected ‘incomprehensible’ US comments and summoned American Ambassador David Hale to explain Trump’s tweet.
President Donald Trump was willing “to go to great lengths to stop all funding from Pakistan as they continue to harbour and support terrorism”, she added, prompting a sharp retort from her Pakistani counterpart at the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, who said her country’s fight against terrorism was not based on any consideration of aid but on national interests and principles.
“Pakistan’s co-operation is not based on any consideration of aid but on our national interests and principles,” Lodhi said.
“We have contributed and sacrificed the most in fighting international terrorism and carried out the largest counter terrorism operation anywhere in the world,” Lodhi said.
“We can review our cooperation if it is not appreciated,” she said and added, “US spokespersons should not shift the blame for their own mistakes and failures onto others.”
At the State Department on Tuesday, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Pakistan knew what it needed to do, including taking action against the Haqqani network and other militants.
Pakistan needs to “earn, essentially, the money that we have provided in the past in foreign military assistance”, she said.
Islamabad bristles at the suggestion it is not doing enough to fight militants, noting that its casualties at the hands of terrorists since 2001 number in the tens of thousands.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday chaired a National Security Committee meeting of civilian and military chiefs, focusing on Trump’s tweet.
The meeting, which lasted nearly three hours, was brought forward by a day and followed an earlier meeting of army generals.
The committee, in a statement issued by the prime minister’s office, did not name Trump but spoke of “deep disappointment” at a slew of critical comments from US officials over the past few months.
“Recent statements and articulation by the American leadership were completely incomprehensible as they contradicted facts manifestly, struck with great insensitivity at the trust between two nations built over generations, and negated the decades of sacrifices made by the Pakistani nation,” it said.