The Trump administration feels it is time to try “something different” to prevent Pakistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists as exercising patience or offering inducements have failed to deal with the problem threatening the region’s stability, a top official said Monday. The remarks by the official came days after the Trump administration suspended approximately USD 2 billion in security assistance to Pakistan, resulting in an outrage from Islamabad.
President Donald Trump in a New Year’s Day tweet accused the country of giving nothing to the US but “lies and deceit” and providing “safe haven” to terrorists in return for USD 33 billion aid over the last 15 years. The official said policies followed by the successive US administrations post 9/11 vis-a-vis Pakistan have not worked.
The US is committed to not allowing either Pakistan or Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists from where they can attack America and its allies, said the senior Trump administration official on condition of anonymity.
“These sanctuaries really threaten stability in the region and they continue to fuel the overall terrorism problem that we’re facing,” the official said. The “previous administrations have tried to exercise what they might call strategic patience or offering inducements like Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill which gave billions of dollars to Pakistan”, the official said, adding none of it has worked so far.
In 2009, the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act (KLB), also known as the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, is passed and Congress authorised tripling of the economic-related assistance to Pakistan to USD 7.5 billion over five years, from the period of 2010 to 2014. Terrorists continue to operate freely inside Pakistan and there is a relationship between terrorist organisations and the establishment, the official said.
“This administration believes it’s time to try something different. We simply can’t ignore the sanctuaries if we’re going to make progress in Afghanistan,” the official said, adding that “the president has been clear about his commitment to stabilising Afghanistan”. On Trump’s comprehensive South Asia strategy for regional diplomacy announced in August last year, the official said, “It looked at India-Pakistan relations, encouraging better ties between the two countries and reducing tensions between them”.
In August, while unveiling his new South Asia strategy, Trump had accused Pakistan of giving “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror,” and said the time had come “for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilisation, order, and to peace”. The official said the Trump’s new policy was not about looking at Pakistan through the lens of Afghanistan, but it was about looking at the region and the future of the US.
“9/11 attacks you know had their roots in this region. We’ve invested a lot of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. We are committed to not allowing the Taliban to dominate Afghanistan and we are committed to not allowing Afghanistan or Pakistan to become a safe haven from which terrorists can attack the US and its allies,” the official said.
“So, I wouldn’t classify it is looking at Pakistan through the Afghanistan lens. I think that’s too narrow of a viewpoint. I think this is about the region and the future of the region. And the fact that these continued sanctuaries really threaten stability in the region and they continue to fuel the overall terrorism problem that we’re facing,” the official added.
The US and others have long complained that Pakistan gives safe haven to the Afghan Taliban and their allies, the Haqqani network, allowing them to carry out cross-border attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistan denies these allegations but President Trump has escalated the criticism against Islamabad since he took office.