President Donald Trump threatened to end U.S. foreign aid for Pakistan Monday in his first tweet of 2018 — a move that comes amid strained ties over America’s decade-long war in Afghanistan.
In an early-morning post, he accused Islamabad of harboring terrorists.
The U.S. has repeatedly called on Pakistan to crack down on extremists in its border regions, including militants in the Taliban-linked Haqqani network, and warned in August that it was withholding millions of dollars in military assistance.
“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,” Trump wrote. “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”
It was not immediately clear what had prompted the president to comment on Pakistan.
However, the New York Times reported Friday that Pakistan had refused to allow U.S. access to a militant captured in October during the rescue operation for American hostage Caitlan Coleman and her family. NBC News could not confirm that report.
There was a furious reaction in Pakistan, where the government has rejected U.S. criticism and says it has suffered from being a regional ally of Washington in the war against terror.
Pakistan will “let the world know the … difference between facts and fiction,” Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif tweeted, promising to respond to Trump “shortly.”
Lawmaker Hina Butt said Trump’s criticism was “baseless.”
“We are paying [a] heavy price in the war against terrorism and lost many lives of armed forces, law enforcement agencies and general public as well,” she wrote. ”We don’t need your aid, our sacrifices should be acknowledged.”
There had been hopes in Pakistan than Coleman’s successful rescue might see a turning-point in relations, with Trump calling it a “positive moment.”
However, Vice President Mike Pence told troops at Bagram airfield in Afghanistan on Dec. 21 that Trump had “put Pakistan on notice” that it “has much to lose from continuing to harbor terrorists.”
In November, the White House condemned the release of U.S.-wanted militant Hafiz Saeed and said a refusal to re-arrest him would damage bilateral ties.
And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote an op-ed article for the New York Times published Thursday stating that “we are prepared to partner with Pakistan to defeat terrorist organizations seeking safe havens, but Pakistan must demonstrate its desire to partner with us.”
In August, Trump warned that Pakistan had “much to lose” if it failed to cooperate with the U.S. in Afghanistan. He also expressed a desire to see India — Pakistan’s arch rival — become a closer partner.