It’s official. The U.S. will be withholding $255 million in military funding from Pakistan this year.
"The United States does not plan to spend the $255 million in [Fiscal Year] 2016 Foreign Military Financing for Pakistan at this time," said an unnamed National Security Council official to Fox News. "The president has made clear that the United States expects Pakistan to take decisive action against terrorists and militants on its soil, and that Pakistan's actions in support of the South Asia Strategy will ultimately determine the trajectory of our relationship, including future security assistance."
The funding was meant to help Pakistan protect itself from terrorism, but President Donald Trump has said the country has only given the U.S. “lies & deceit” in return.
The announcement to withhold funding came soon after Trump blasted Pakistan’s lack of efforts on Twitter.
“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” tweeted Trump in his first tweet of the New Year.
The Trump administration will now “review Pakistan's level of cooperation."
The U.S. is demanding that Pakistan take stronger action to match Trump’s strategy on Afghanistan-Pakistan.
The U.S. government has also requested that the country hand over a Haqqani Network operative who kidnapped and held an American-Canadian couple hostage for almost five years, but Pakistan is using this request as leverage to get the funding released.
Following Trump’s tweet, Pakistan's defense minister, Khurram Dastgir-Khan took to Twitter in defense of the country.
“Pak as anti-terror ally has given free to US: land & air communication, military bases & intel cooperation that decimated Al-Qaeda over last 16yrs, but they have given us nothing but invective & mistrust. They overlook cross-border safe havens of terrorists who murder Pakistanis,” tweeted Dastgir-Khan.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif also told a CNN affiliate Geo TV that his country is "ready to publicly provide every detail of the US aid that it has received” on Monday and "We have already told the US that we will not do more, so Trump's 'no more' does not hold any importance.”
The foreign minister has also offered to pay Trump to complete an audit on Pakistan’s efforts.
“Pres Trump quoted figure of $33billion given to PAK over last 15yrs, he can hire a US-based Audit firm on our expense to verify this figure & let the world know who is lying & deceiving..” tweeted Asif.
Pakistan’s National Security Committee (NSC) released a statement following a meeting with the country’s leaders that said they Trump’s claims 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.”
But withholding funding from Pakistan has been a common move by the U.S. government in the past as the country is often suspected to be harboring terrorists.
“Since 2015, however, the US Defense secretary has refused to grant Pakistan a certificate of clean health, meaning, the US believes that Pakistan regularly plays a double game in its conduct in the war against terror – gets paid by the US to provide access to Afghanistan, but refuses to shut down its terror havens inside Pakistan,” writes the Indian Express. “The US wants Pakistan to not only shut down those terror havens, but use its influence on those terror organizations to come to the talks table with the Afghan government so that elections can be held peaceably later this year.”
Author’s note: Will Pakistan move in the right direction after Trump has made it clear funding won’t be released until the country makes more of an effort? Or will they just get mad and instead try to punish the U.S. back?