WASHINGTON: The United States warned an angry Pakistan on Tuesday that it could lose its status as a privileged military ally if it continues giving safe haven to Afghan militant groups, reports AFP.
One day after President Donald Trump unveiled a new strategy to force the Taliban to negotiate a political settlement with the Kabul government, his top diplomat upped the heat on Islamabad. Trump had warned that Pakistan’s support for the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani extremist network would have consequences, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has now spelled these out.
“We have some leverage,” Tillerson told reporters, as he fleshed out Trump’s speech, “in terms of aid, their status as a non-NATO alliance partner—all of that can be put on the table.”
As one of 16 “Non-NATO Major Allies,” Pakistan benefits from billions of dollars in aid and has access to some advanced US military technology banned from other countries. This year, the United States has already withheld $350 million in military funding over concerns Pakistan is not doing enough to fight terror, but the alliance itself was not in question.
Tillerson said Washington wants to work with Pakistan as it expands its own support for Kabul in the battle against the Taliban, but warned it to close militant safe havens.
Meanwhiel, angry and offended Pakistanis fired back Wednesday against Donald Trump’s accusations that their country harbours militants, highlighting the heavy toll they have paid fighting extremism and slamming his embrace of arch-rival India, reports AFP.
“Like the previous administrations, the Trump administration too believes in unquestioned cooperation, ignoring Islamabad’s interests completely,” wrote columnist Zahid Hussain in Dawn newspaper. Some of Pakistan’s critics in Washington have urged Trump to go further, by authorizing US strikes against militants inside Pakistan or declaring Pakistan a “state sponsor of terror.”
Officials have not yet brandished the designation threat, which could lead to severe sanctions and legal threats to Pakistani officials, but Tillerson did not rule out strikes.