State Department: US Will Freeze All Security Assistance To Pakistan

Will Racke | Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter

The Trump administration will suspend all security assistance to Pakistan over its failure to take “decisive action” against Islamic militants there, the State Department confirmed Thursday.

The indefinite freeze, which applies only to military aid, will remain in place until Islamabad can demonstrate it is taking actions against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network fighters operating within Pakistan, according to department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

“Today we can confirm that we are suspending … security assistance only to Pakistan at this time until the Pakistani government takes decisive action against groups, including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network,” Nauert said during a regular briefing with reporters. “We consider them to be destabilizing the region and also targeting U.S. personnel.”

The announcement comes two days after U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Washington would scrap a $255 million aid package for Pakistan that had already been delayed for several months. Nauert did not specify the amount of assistance now under suspension, but she said it includes that aid package and additional funds.

Relations between Washington and Islamabad have deteriorated since October, when Pakistani forces secured the release of an American hostage and her family from Taliban captivity. At the time, President Donald Trump said the operation was an example of improved cooperation by Pakistan on counterterrorism issues.

But administration officials have since soured Pakistan’s commitment to rooting out Taliban and other Islamic militants operating along its northwest border. Trump singled out Pakistan when he rolled out his national security strategy in December, saying “they have to help” the U.S. military in Afghanistan in return for “massive payments” in foreign assistance.

Trump escalated his rhetoric against Pakistan in a tweet on New Year’s Day, accusing Islamabad of harboring terrorists and giving nothing but “lies and deceit” in return for U.S. aid.

Earlier Thursday, the State Department placed Pakistan on a special watch list for severe violations of religious freedom. The designation does not carry any financial penalties.

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