President Donald Trump kicked off the New Year by putting Pakistan on blast, accusing the country of returning US aid with “nothing but lies & deceit” while continuing to provide the Afghan Taliban a “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.”
Trump made the comments on Jan. 1 in a scathing tweet:
The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018
It is unclear what sparked Trump’s harsh words toward Pakistan. Trump’s comments came just two days after Hafiz Seed, the leader of terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba and its charitable front, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, was photographed with Walid Abu Ali, the ambassador for the Palestinian government, at a conference on Palestine and Kashmir in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi [photograph below]. The Palestinian government recalled Ali after the photograph was disseminated and described the meeting as a “mistake.” From Dawn:
“… the [Palestinian] Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates considered the participation of our ambassador in Pakistan in a mass rally in solidarity with Jerusalem, held […] in the presence of individuals accused of supporting terrorism is an unintended mistake, but not justified.”
Saeed is listed by the US government as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and his Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa are listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Saeed is allied with both the Taliban and al Qaeda, and is responsible for multiple terrorist attacks in India and Afghanistan. In December, Pakistan released Saeed from house arrest, much to the dismay of the US government.
Pakistan’s duplicity with terrorist groups and its relationship with the US is well documented [see Pakistan: Friend or Foe in the Fight Against Terrorism?]. The Trump administration, like the Bush and Obama administrations before it, has attempted to flatter and cajole Pakistan into changing its stripes and ending its special relationship with jihadist groups such as the Afghan Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Harakat-ul-Mujahideen. The Pakistani government has continued to insist its resolve to fight against terrorists “is unmatched in the world” while denouncing the designation of established terrorist groups like Hizbul Mujahideen.
The Trump administration, which has redoubled efforts to defeat the Afghan Taliban, appears to have quickly tired of Pakistan’s double dealing. There are numerous options for the administration to punish Pakistan, including trade, economic and travel restrictions, diplomatic demarches, and military options.
If Trump is truly serious about hitting back at Pakistan, expect the US to ramp up drone strikes against jihadists, and not just in the tribal areas. Baluchistan province, where the last emir of the Taliban was killed, remains the prime support zone for the Afghan Taliban.