US warns Islamabad of aid cuts over ties to terror groups, places Pakistan on watch list

UPDATE — 4:32 p.m. EST: State Dept. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert announced Thursday the U.S. was rescinding security support in Pakistan until Islamabad takes steps to reign-in terrorist outfits such as the Taliban and the Haqqani network.

Nauret said the American government considers both organizations “to be destabilizing the region and also targeting U.S. personnel.”

 

Amid rumors the Trump administration was considering curtailing $255 million in military aid to Pakistan over its ties to terror groups, President Trump kicked off the first day of 2018 on Twitter with an announcement Washington may turn off the aid spigot to Islamabad entirely.

Upbraiding a putative ally, the president accused Pakistan of deceitfully accepting billions of dollars in American aid, but contributing little to combating terror organs and providing shelter to enemies of the U.S. while it conducts operations against Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists in neighboring Afghanistan.

Pakistan has repeatedly and heatedly denied the charge it harbors terror groups and has vehemently denied contacts with terror groups.

Bitterly contesting Trump’s charge, Pakistan’s foreign minister, Khawaja Asif vowed to respond in a tweet, but in an interview with Geo Entertainment television, blasted Trump, saying: “The United States should hold its own people accountable for its failures in Afghanistan.”

Following the New Year’s Day fall-out, the State Department announced Thursday Pakistan has been placed on a special U.S. watch list for countries that have have seriously violated the religious freedom of their citizens. Ten other nations have also been placed on the list as of Dec. 22, including China, North Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Although the U.S. has maintained a cordial relationship with Pakistan, even referring to it as a key ally in the fight against Islamist militancy, the alliance has suffered recently as the Trump White House has stepped up criticism of Islamabad for its bonds with militant groups.

During a surprise December visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Vice President Mike Pence announced Mr. Trump had “put Pakistan on notice.”

Comments related to repeated warnings Islamabad must stop offering refuge to Taliban and associated factions operating in Afghanistan, it is long been suspected Pakistan’s government has allowed militants to carry out terror acts against U.S. troops and Afghani citizens and freely pass into the sanctuary of Pakistani border regions.

 

[AFP via Arab News] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy DailyO]

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