Jan. 1 (UPI) — In his first tweet of 2018, President Donald Trump on Monday criticized how the United States has “foolishly” given military aid to Pakistan despite “save haven” to terrorists, comments that drew a strong response from the Middle East ally.
The president, vacationing at his private resort in South Florida, posted the tweet at 7:12 a.m. Monday. He returned to Washington on Monday afternoon, with “much work to be done.”
“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,” the tweet said. “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”
The United States is in the process of deciding whether to withhold distribution of about $255 million in aid to Pakistan, The New York Times reported last week. U.S. officials told the newspaper a final decision could be made in the coming weeks.
Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan responded on Twitter that Pakistan “as anti-terror ally has given free to US: land & air communication, military bases & intel cooperation that decimated Al-Qaeda over last 16 yrs, but they have given us nothing but invective & mistrust. They overlook cross-border safe havens of terrorists who murder Pakistanis.”
And Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif told Geo News said that Pakistan had “already told the US that we will not do more, so Trump’s ‘no more’ does not hold any importance.”
He added, “Pakistan is ready to publicly provide every detail of the U.S. aid that it has received.”
The Trump administration has notified Congress it’s holding off sending the money for the military until it sees greater cooperation in the fight against the militant Haqqani Network and the Taliban.
“I haven’t seen any change yet in their behavior,” U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, told reporters in November after a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels. “We are engaging at the very highest levels with the Pakistanis to work together with them against these terrorists that are undermining the stability of the entire region.”
“Pakistan has fought hard and suffered heavily against those terrorists focused on its government, and now we are asking them to focus on the terrorists that are attacking Afghanistan and attacking the coalition,” he continued. “The United States has been very clear about the direction we want to go, and we hope to see some change in the coming weeks and months.”
Vice President Mike Pence, during a visit to Afghanistan just before Christmas, told U.S. troops that “Trump has put Pakistan on notice.”
In August, Trump said, “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change, and that will change immediately.”
Since 2002, the United States has given Islamabad more than $33 billion in aid.
Efforts by Pakistani leaders to oust terrorists were also criticized by Trump’s predecessors, Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Trump has previously lauded Pakistan’s leaders.
Before taking office in December 2016, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was characterized by Trump as a “terrific guy” and the U.S. president vowed “to play any role” to address long-standing problems.
In October, Trump praised Pakistan for cooperating in the release of American Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, and five children freed as Taliban prisoners. Pakistan is “starting to respect the United States again,” Trump said.
Pakistani officials, though, have refused to hand over one of the militants responsible for abducting the family.