Donald Trump's pressure on Pakistan may push it closer to China

How it began Trump who spent the day at the White House voice anger on New Year's Day with Pakistan apparently leading to a rushed policy process

The U.S. has given Pakistan billions in aid over the years since 2002, but most of that funding has gone to military efforts to advance U.S. security interests.

Defense Minister Khurram Dastagir said Thursday there should be "no doubt or fear as the defense of Pakistan is in competent and strong hands".

The decision to cut funding comes just several days after President Donald Trump tweeted his disappointment with Pakistan, claiming that the US got nothing but "lies and deceit" for the $33 billion in aid the USA gave Pakistan between 2002 and 2018.

The United States said on Thursday it was suspending security assistance to Pakistan, which one official said was worth more than $255 million, until Islamabad takes action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network.

Having an Afghan neighbor as an ally in the global war on terrorism was key to the US ousting the terror groups that had set up training camps in Afghanistan, and Pakistan quickly became the third-largest recipient of United States military and economic support.

Pakistan is considered critical because its links to the Taliban insurgents fighting the US -backed Afghan government could help convince the militants to reach a political reconciliation.

Nauert said that Pakistan's failure to take action against Lakshar-e-Taiba leader Hafeez Saeed was not a factor in the action.

But Pakistan entirely rejected Trump's accusations, and termed them unwarranted and detrimental to Pak-US relations.

Hours before the tweet, a US Special Forces soldier had been killed in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan, and four were injured in a terrorist attack.

President Trump sent out morning tweets about Pakistan and Iran on New Year's Day and the move by the State Department appears to be an attempt to substantiate those
Donald Trump's pressure on Pakistan may push it closer to China

Pakistan has been frustrating successive administrations since 2001, when USA troops ousted the Taliban regime in Afghanistan for providing a safe haven for Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader who masterminded the September 11 attacks on the U.S. While Pakistan has cleared all the safe havens and strongholds of TTP despite its leadership enjoying a complete safe haven in Kunar, Nuristan and Nangarhar, NATO has ceded over 47% Afghan territory to Afghan Taliban.

Trump, Secretary Defence Rex Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence have rejected Pakistan's explanations and hurled threats of aid cut, sanctions and losing territory if it fails to abide by the U.S. dictates.

The political standoff with Pakistan comes in the wake of a push by the administration to get Pakistan's cooperation as part of its southwest Asia strategy launched a year ago.

Mattis along with the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have travelled to Pakistan in recent months to deliver tough message to the countrys leadership.

The United States has continually hoped the Pakistanis would change their behavior, but "the evidence is all on the other side", said David Sedney, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and former top Pentagon official under President Barack Obama.

Washington and Kabul accuse Pakistan of cynically supporting militant groups including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani group.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi called Trump's criticism "incomprehensible". The New York Times has quoted Trump administration officials as saying "around $1.3 billion could be frozen".

A US official said the amount being withheld totals $255 million.

The military aid, known as foreign military financing, "promotes the development of Pakistan's long-term [counter-insurgency/counter-terrorism] capabilities and improves Pakistan's ability to participate in maritime security operations and counter-maritime piracy", according to the State Department. The money is the most direct leverage the United States has at its disposal. Threat of unilateral action has been sounded by USA to force Pakistan to fight its war and help the U.S. in converting its defeat into victory.

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