US unlikely to change policy on Pakistan aid suspension


WASHINGTON: The US is unlikely to revoke the suspension of aid to Pakistan until it sees substantial progress against terrorists and their safe havens, the Trump administration has told Islamabad as top officials of the two countries met to try to reset their strained ties.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, during their separate meetings with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, are understood to have told him that in its assessment, the US does not see any changes on the ground when it comes to taking action against terrorists operating from the Pakistani soil.

The Trump administration also wants Pakistan to bring them to the negotiating table to end the nearly 17-year-long strife.

The meeting between Qureshi and Pompeo is understood to have lasted for 20 minutes at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department. The White House normally does not issue a readout of the meeting that its National Security Advisor has with foreign leaders.

Qureshi and Pompeo did appear for a hand-shake photo op before the meeting. According to informed sources familiar with the development, the US side is upset because of Qureshi’s faux pas about a handshake he had with President Donald Trump during a luncheon in New York, which he described to the media as a meeting.

The situation in war-torn Afghanistan dominated the separate meetings Qureshi held with Bolton and Pompeo. Qureshi met Bolton for 40 minutes at the White House before heading to the State Department for another meeting with Pompeo.

The second meeting was also attended by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and Ambassador Ali Jehangir Siddiqui. In a readout, the Embassy of Pakistan said Qureshi had a wide range of discussions with both Pompeo and Bolton which included among others bilateral and regional issues including Pakistan’s strained relations with India.

The ties between the two countries strained after Trump, while announcing his Afghanistan and South Asia policy in August last year, hit out at Pakistan for “providing safe havens” to “agents of chaos” that kill Americans in Afghanistan and warned Islamabad that it has “much to lose” by “harbouring terrorists”.

Last month, the Trump administration cancelled USD 300 million in military aid to Islamabad for not doing enough against terror groups active on its soil.