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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Trump's warning to Pakistan over terrorism meets with mixed reaction

The US president threatened to cut financial aid to Pakistan if it does not do more to stop the flow of militants into Afghanistan and appealed to its arch-rival, India, to increase participation in Afghanistan’s economy and broader development

Pakistani police patrol destroyed Taliban hideouts in west Karachi. Rizwan Tabassum / AFP
Pakistani police patrol destroyed Taliban hideouts in west Karachi. Rizwan Tabassum / AFP

As Donald Trump announced his intent to extend the US military role in Afghanistan, he also delivered a harsh warning to Pakistan.

Washington could “no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations”, the US president said in the speech on Monday, a charge regularly levelled by Kabul and New Delhi but denied by Islamabad.

Mr Trump threatened to cut financial aid to Pakistan if it does not do more to stop the flow of militants into Afghanistan and appealed to its arch-rival, India, to increase participation in Afghanistan’s economy and broader development.

Pakistan enjoyed special security relations with the United States when it was designated a major non-Nato ally by then US president George W Bush for its contributions to the fight against Al Qaeda. But relations between the two countries have long been strained over Afghanistan.

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Though there was no official Pakistani response to Mr Trump's remarks, there has been a mixed reaction from politicians and analysts, particularly regarding his call for India to step up its involvement in Afghanistan.

Abdul Ghaffar Aziz, a central leader of the Jammat-e-Islami, one of Pakistan’s leading Islamist parties, said his country had paid heavy human and economic costs in the US's so-called war on terror.

“Trump ignored atrocities of [the] Indian government in Kashmir and invited it to build Afghanistan,” Mr Aziz said.

A senior official in Pakistan’s foreign ministry said a detailed response to America's stated future strategy would follow after consultations.

“Asking Pakistan to do more is not a new thing. But this time, Pakistan is more concerned [about the US] reaching out to India, which has already been supporting Pakistani terrorist groups from Afghani soil to carry out subversive activities in Pakistan,” the official told The National.

But some said the new US policy on Afghanistan was appropriate.

Afrasiab Khattak, a former member of the Pakistani senate and leader of the liberal Awami National Party, said focusing on counter terrorism was the right response as nation-building cannot be done by foreign forces.

“Making an open-ended commitment [to] an anti-terror fight and leaving space for political solution is the type of balance that can pave ground for peace,” he said.

Other analysts, however, believe Pakistan’s military has already been working on flushing out militants from the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network from tribal areas.

On August 19, a team from US Central Command, headed by senior US military official Gen Joseph L Votel, visited North Waziristan. The Pakistani army said the team expressed appreciation for the efforts made by the Pakistani military to re-establish peace in the region.

Hasan Khan, an Islamabad-based analyst who studies Pakistani-Afghani relations, said the Trump administration had for the first time adopted a clear approach towards Afghanistan but should not hold Pakistan responsible for the instability there.

Citing a report by the Special Inspector General of Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar), Mr Khan said 40 per cent of the country's districts were under the control of Taliban or other armed groups.

“It is also making Pakistan concerned because Pakistani militant groups, such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, have been hiding in the sanctuaries in Afghan Taliban’s controlled areas and from there carrying out cross-border attacks,” Mr Khan added.