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Pakistan Says Suspension Of U.S. Security Aid 'Counterproductive'

Pakistani student members of an Islamist party burn images of U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest against U.S. aid cuts in Islamabad on January 5
Pakistani student members of an Islamist party burn images of U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest against U.S. aid cuts in Islamabad on January 5

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan has responded harshly to a U.S. decision to suspend at least $900 million in security assistance, saying Washington's "arbitrary deadlines, unilateral pronouncements, and shifting goalposts are counterproductive" to addressing the threat of terrorism.

The statement from Pakistan's Foreign Office on January 5 said the "impact of the U.S. decision on the pursuit of common objectives" was "likely to emerge more clearly in due course of time."

The Foreign Office said Islamabad was "engaged" with U.S. President Donald Trump's administration "on the issue of security cooperation and awaits further details."

It also said "it needs to be appreciated" that Pakistan has spent more than $120 billion during the past 15 years, largely of its own resources, on the fight against terrorism.

"We are determined to continue to do all it takes to secure the lives of our citizens and broader stability in the region," the Foreign Office said.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on January 4 that at least $900 million in U.S. security assistance to Pakistan's military would be frozen until Islamabad took "decisive action" against Afghan Taliban and Haqqani-network militants that operate within Pakistan's borders.

"The Taliban and Haqqani network continue to find sanctuary inside Pakistan as they plot to destabilize Afghanistan and attack U.S. and allied personnel," Nauert told reporters in Washington.

"Until the Pakistani government takes decisive action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani group...the United States will suspend that type of security assistance to Pakistan," she said.

The U.S. State Department said details of the aid suspension were still being worked out, but the funds were earmarked for reimbursing Pakistan for foreign military operations and counterterrorism operations.

The United States will also continue to suspend $255 million in foreign military financing that has been held up since August to pressure Islamabad to take tougher action against militants.

U.S. officials who briefed reporters stressed that the suspension did not affect civilian aid to Pakistan.

"We're hoping that Pakistan will see this as an incentive, not a punishment," a senior State Department official said.

A senior Pakistani senator expressed disappointment in reaction to the U.S. decision, saying it will hurt relations between the two countries.

Nuzhat Sadiq, the chairwoman of the foreign relations committee in the upper house of Pakistan's parliament, was quoted by AP as saying that "what the U.S. is doing now is not good for its policy against terrorism and for a lasting peace in this region."

The White House on January 2 said it was calling on Pakistan to do more to fight terrorism and that it would announce "specific actions" within days to pressure Islamabad.

In a Twitter posting on January 1, President Donald Trump threatened to cut off billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan, accusing Islamabad of being a safe haven for extremists operating in Afghanistan.

Trump said the United States had "foolishly" given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the past 15 years, "and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools."

Those in the U.S. government who are frustrated with Pakistan are not limited to the White House.

Some U.S. lawmakers also accuse Pakistan of playing a double game by turning a blind eye to militant groups seeking sanctuary, despite promising to crack down on them.

"Pakistan is one of the most duplicitous governments I've had any involvement with," Senator Bob Corker, Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters on January 4.

"Their, in essence, support of the Haqqani network, or...allowing them to have safe harbor in their country when they're the greatest threat to our men and women in uniform," he added.

Islamabad denies that it intentionally allows militant extremists to have sanctuary in Pakistan.

Earlier on January 4, Pakistani Major General Asif Ghafoor told Geo Television that Islamabad seeks to continue its cooperation with the United States but that it will not "compromise on national interests and prestige."

He said Pakistan will respond to any actions taken by the U.S. government against Pakistan, although he was not specific.

Reuters news agency quoted Miftah Ismail, Pakistan's de facto finance minister, as saying that the "aid cuts will not hurt us."

"That's not the leverage they have, because it is something they have reduced drastically over the years," he added.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and The Washington Post