US may announce plans to cancel aid to Pakistan soon

Reena Bhardwaj (ANI) | Updated: Jan 04, 2018 13:28 IST

Washington D.C. [United States], Jan 04 (ANI): The Trump Administration has been informing members of the U.S. Congress that it will soon announce plans to cut off "security assistance" to Pakistan, congressional aides said on Wednesday.

This came a day after the White House warned Islamabad it would have to do more on the anti-terrorism front to receive U.S. aid.

Aides in two congressional offices said the U.S. State Department called them on Wednesday to inform that it would announce on Wednesday or Thursday that aid is being cut off, although it was not clear how much, what type or for how long.

On Tuesday, the White House said it wanted to see Pakistan do more to fight terrorism and that it would likely announce actions to pressure Islamabad.

Earlier, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Washington would withhold USD 255 million in assistance to Pakistan.

The United States has accused Pakistan of playing a "double game" in the fight against terrorism and warned Islamabad that it would have to do more if it wanted to receive U.S. aid.

As Washington is unlikely to be satisfied with Pakistan's efforts, White House spokeswoman Sara Sanders said ""In terms of specific actions (against Pakistan), I think you'll see some more details come out on that in the next 24 to 48 hours".

Pakistan has always failed to comply with American demands. Experts say Pakistan, like any other country, has paramount interests, and these interests entail maintaining ties with the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network.

So what are the options that the Trump Administration could be exploring to crack down on Pakistan? At this moment in time, the US-Pakistan relationship is participating in a tense waiting game. At some point in the coming months, Washington will decide if Pakistan has addressed its demands and will take stock. If the demands fall short of expectations, the United States might resort to harsh measures.

Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson Center told ANI, "There are indications that this White House will be more willing to take harsher measures that could entail some level of Pakistani retaliation."

"The Trump Administration has no patience at all for Pakistan's position towards terrorism," he added.

Following cuts in security assistance, America's most likely next move could be to expand its drone war and target Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network leaders in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

"The Trump Administration knows how Pakistan's fight against terrorism has been selective. Pakistan does not go after terrorists like the Haqqani Network that targets Americans in Afghanistan, hence, an expansion of the drone strikes is a punitive measure that could be seen", Kugelman said.

In effect, Washington could conclude that if Pakistan won't go after terrorists that threaten its soldiers and interests in Afghanistan, America itself could take on that job.

Kugelman further revealed that America could conduct a special forces operation in Pakistan to nab big-fish terrorists. This, however, would likely require intelligence assistance from Pakistan, which the latter might not provide, he added.

One of the most frequently cited possibilities is the sanctioning of Pakistani security officials with ties to terror. President Donald Trump's 'get-tough' approach with Pakistan could potentially include this, reveal analysts.

Other responses include downgrading Pakistan's status as a major non-NATO ally and designating it as a state sponsor of terror.

America's possible flexing of muscular measures for sure would result in extreme Pakistani retaliations, such as closing down NATO supply routes and suspending intelligence sharing with Washington, which could imperil US interests in Afghanistan.

Refraining from more draconian policies might not only preempt dangerous Pakistani retaliations and threats to US interests, but also guarantee that Pakistan continues to patronise the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network -- a relationship that poses longstanding threats to US interests, Kugelman said. (ANI)