WASHINGTON: In a follow up to the United States (US) President Donald Trump’s tweet accusing Islamabad of being a liar, the White House on Wednesday said that details of the super power’s policy regarding Pakistan will be announced in the next 24-48 hours.
“In terms of specific actions, I think you’ll see some more details come out on that in the next 24 to 48 hours,” US Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told the US media in a press briefing.
She circled around questions about the reason behind the president’s tweets, where he threatened to cut off aid to Pakistan, saying that Trump was “following through” on his policy regarding Afghanistan and South Asia that was announced last year.
“We know that Pakistan can do more to fight terrorism, and we want them to step up and do that,” she said.
She added that Trump feels Pakistan “is not doing enough” to combat terrorism.
HALEY ACCUSES PAKISTAN OF ‘PLAYING DOUBLE GAME FOR YEARS’:
Minutes earlier, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced that the US was withholding $255 million in aid to Islamabad, accusing Pakistan of failing to cooperate fully in the fight against terrorism.
“The administration is withholding $255 million in assistance to Pakistan. There are clear reasons for this. Pakistan has played a double game for years,” Haley told reporters at the United Nations on Tuesday.
“They work with us at times, and they also harbour the terrorists that attack our troops in Afghanistan,” she said.
“That game is not acceptable to this administration. We expect far more cooperation from Pakistan in the fight against terrorism,” she added.
“The president is willing to go to great lengths to stop all funding from Pakistan as they continue to harbour terrorists.”
Last month, Pakistan joined more than 120 countries to defy the US president and vote in favour of a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution calling for America to drop its recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
But Haley said the Pakistan aid issue was not connected to the vote on Jerusalem, adding, “It is entirely connected to Pakistan’s harbouring of terrorists.”
“However, as I said earlier in December, we won’t forget the Jerusalem vote,” she added.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday chaired a National Security Committee meeting of civilian and military chiefs, focussing on Trump’s tweet. The meeting, which lasted nearly three hours, was brought forward by a day and followed an earlier meeting of army generals.
The committee, in a statement issued by the prime minister’s office, did not name Trump but spoke of “deep disappointment” at a slew of critical comments from US officials over the past few months.
“Recent statements and articulation by the American leadership 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,” it said.
Pakistan civilian and military chiefs rejected “incomprehensible” US comments and summoned American Ambassador David Hale to explain Trump’s tweet.
Pakistani UN Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi said in a statement that her country’s fight against terrorism was not based on any consideration of aid but on national interests and principles.
“We have contributed and sacrificed the most in fighting international terrorism and carried out the largest counter terrorism operation anywhere in the world,” Lodhi said. “We can review our cooperation if it is not appreciated.”
The US president’s tweet had come in the aftermath of an increasingly terse back-and-forth between Washington and Islamabad since Trump announced his administration’s latest national security strategy.
During the announcement, the US president had been quick to remind Pakistan of its ‘obligation’ to help America “because it receives massive payments” from Washington every year.
“We have made clear to Pakistan that while we desire continued partnership, we must see decisive action against terrorist groups operating on their territory. And we make massive payments every year to Pakistan. They have to help,” the US president had said.
A Pentagon report to the US Congress, released to the media on Dec 17, had said Washington would also take ‘unilateral steps’ in areas of divergence with Pakistan while expanding cooperation between the two countries where their interests converge.
Subsequently, US Vice President Mike Pence had, in a surprise visit to Afghanistan’s Bagram airbase on Dec 22, warned that Trump has “put Pakistan on notice” in what was the harshest US warning to Islamabad since the beginning of the Afghan war over 16 years ago.