In what is arguably the most severe public indictment ever of Pakistan by a US President, Donald Trump on Monday said that his country has “foolishly” given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years and has got nothing in return but “lies & deceit”. Posting his first tweet of 2018, Trump wrote: “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. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” Trump’s tweet was posted at 5.42 pm IST on Monday, and retweeted by more than 14,200 Twitter accounts and liked by more than 34,000 within an hour. Responding to the remarks, Pakistan’s foreign minister Khwaja M Asif tweeted at 6.36 pm IST: “We will respond to President Trump’s tweet shortly inshallah…will let the world know the truth…difference between facts and fiction.” Later, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the US Hamdullah Mohib tweeted, “President @realDonaldTrump’s first tweet of 2018. A promising message to Afghans who have suffered at the hands of terrorists based in Pakistan for far too long.” Trump’s tweet comes 10 days after US Vice President Mike Pence, during a surprise visit to Afghanistan, said, “For too long has Pakistan provided safe haven to the Taliban and many terrorist organisations, but those days are over… President Trump has put Pakistan on notice.” The tweet marks a remarkable turnaround from last October when Trump thanked Pakistan for rescuing an American-Canadian family from the Haqqani terror network. But sources in New Delhi pointed to the “continuity” in Trump’s approach since his administration unveiled its South Asia strategy last August and National Security Strategy in December.
On August 14, the US President tweeted: “Starting to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders, I want to thank them for their cooperation on many fronts.” In his South Asia speech on August 21, Trump said, “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond… Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbour terrorists.” In its National Security Strategy released on December 19, the US said it will “press” Pakistan to intensify counter-terrorism efforts and encourage Islamabad to demonstrate that it is a “responsible steward” of its nuclear assets. The strategy said that the US continues to face threats from “transnational terrorists and militants operating from within Pakistan”. “We seek a Pakistan that is not engaged in destabilising behaviour and a stable and self-reliant Afghanistan… We will insist that Pakistan take decisive action against militant and terrorist groups operating from its soil,” the strategy said.
“The prospect for an Indo-Pakistani military conflict that could lead to a nuclear exchange remains a key concern requiring consistent diplomatic attention,” it said. Responding to the US strategy, Pakistan’s foreign ministry had said, “Pakistan rejects such unfounded accusations that belie facts on ground and trivialise Pakistan’s efforts for fighting terrorism and our unmatched sacrifices to promote peace and stability in the region.”