The Trump administration said Thursday that it was suspending security assistance to the Pakistani military until it takes “decisive action” against the Taliban and Haqqani militants who have been attacking U.S. forces in Afghanistan from their hideouts across the border in Pakistan.
The move came days after the administration accused Pakistan of playing a “double game” on terrorism — and after it reiterated that it was holding up to $255 million in funds that Pakistan would have used to buy military equipment from U.S. companies.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert gave few details about what kind of assistance was being suspended, but when pressed by NBC News she said some of it is reimbursements for money Pakistan spent combating terror groups that are sworn enemies of the U.S.
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“Until the Pakistani government takes decisive action against groups including the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network, we consider them to be destabilizing the region and also targeting U.S. personnel,” Nauert said. “Despite a sustained high level of engagement by this administration with the government of Pakistan, the Taliban and the Haqqani network continue to find sanctuary in Pakistan.”
While they couldn't give an exact number, based on past years' requests for reimbursements by the Pakistanis, it is safe to say that hundreds of millions of dollars could be at stake.
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The latest move was expected to ratchet up tension even further with Pakistan, a Muslim country that Trump has branded an unreliable ally in the battle against terror.
On Monday, Trump signaled his intentions to squeeze Pakistan with an angry tweet in which he declared that the U.S. “foolishly” gave the country more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years and got “nothing but lies and deceit” in return.
“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” he tweeted.
Pakistan’s leaders rejected what they called “incomprehensible” U.S. comments and summoned U.S. Ambassador Dave Hale to explain Trump’s tweet.
But Washington has long complained about Islamabad’s alleged support for Haqqani militants, who are allied with the Afghan Taliban. And while the Pakistanis have repeatedly denied sheltering America’s enemies, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was hiding out in Pakistan when President Barack Obama dispatched U.S. forces to kill him in 2011.
But Trump hasn't always been a critic of Pakistan. In October, after Islamabad helped the U.S. free an American family from the clutches of the Haqqani network, Trump tweeted his praise.