When unveiling his Afghanistan war strategy in August, President Trump urged Pakistan to take action against jihadist groups operating within its borders. The mere fact that the Trump regime is now on the verge of making good on its threat should cause some concern within the corridors of power in Rawalpindi, the headquarters of the overweening Pakistani military establishment.
China could once again be the beneficiary of a Trump decision whose signature tune is estrangement with and from long-time partners.
The US is keeping "all options" on the table apart from suspending about US$ 2 billion in security aid to Pakistan to put pressure on it to take decisive action against the Taliban and the Haqqani network and eliminate their safe havens, the White House warned today.
Both the US action and Trump's remarks have upset many in Pakistan.
The US, she said, will not be delivering military equipment or transfer security-related funds to Pakistan unless it is required by law.
In 2011, Pakistan shut down USA supply routes through its territory and airspace for months after US airstrikes that mistakenly hit and killed 24 Pakistani border forces. "Perhaps no other country has suffered more from terrorism than Pakistan and many other countries in that part of the region", she said.
A senior Pakistani senator expressed disappointment Friday at the USA decision to suspend military aid, saying it will be detrimental to bilateral relations, while the government itself said it was too early to gauge the effects of the decision.
The Trump administration's move came after what a senior State Department official called "numerous conversations" with the Pakistanis over several months, along with visits by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
"We're still working with Pakistan and we would restore the aid if we see decisive movements against the terrorists - who are as much a threat against Pakistan as they are to us".
As recently as October, Trump credited US-Pakistani cooperation for winning the release of an American woman, her Canadian husband and their children who had been held by Haqqani militants for five years.
United States has been holding regular talks with Pakistan, the official said, adding that they do not believe that talks are an impasse as reported in some section of the media. He said the committee has made a decision to reconvene next week for a briefing by security agencies.
Alliance forces rely on Pakistani roads to haul supplies to landlocked Afghanistan. The Taliban might outlive this offensive too, and deal with it "lying low in their mountain fastness, as they did with previous offensives", as one interlocutor said. The foreign minister responded that his country had little trust in the United States as well.
The State Department also announced Thursday that it was placing Pakistan on a watch list of countries failing to protect religious freedom, a modest gesture that fell short of the more severe designation "Countries of Particular Concern" accorded to nations such as North Korea and Iran.
"For all the talk of how the US may finally be taking its pressure to a new level to get the results it wants, pushing harder could backfire in a big way", cautioned Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center, a Washington-based foreign policy think tank. "We have had no indication of anything like that", he said in response to a question. In fact, since September 11, the US has if anything been too forgiving, slashing aid and then restoring it without evidence of real reform.
The U.S. decision last week to suspend military aid to Pakistan is not only defensible but justified.
Prominent among the suspended amount include $255 million in Foreign Military Funding (FMF) for the fiscal year 2016 as mandated by the Congress.
"There has been ample time for Pakistan to show that it is taking our requests seriously", the official added, calling the US requests "very clear".
"If Pakistan feels sufficiently provoked by tough USA measures, it could retaliate in ways that damage US interests in South Asia", Kugelman said.
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