Earlier this week, US President Trump and Pakistani PM Khan disagreed over numerous topics, including the issue of foreign aid and the subject of Osama bin Laden. The US-Pakistan relationship has been under severe strain the last few months, since President Trump decided to cut $300 million of American aid and other assistance to Pakistan. These cuts are a part of a greater push back from the Trump administration against Pakistan and what they see as ambivalence from the Pakistani government. Trump cites the Pakistani government’s failure to deal with terrorists, like the Taliban and bin Laden, as a reason to cut off aid. The US has claimed multiple times in the past that Pakistan was knowingly harboring terrorists within its borders, and refuses to do anything about it.
These claims reemerged this week during a Fox News interview with President Trump. Trump claimed that Pakistan was knowingly harboring bin Laden in a “mansion” and refused to help the US with bringing bin Laden to justice. When discussing bin Laden, Trump said “…but living in Pakistan right next to the military academy, everybody in Pakistan knew he was there. And we give Pakistan 1.3 billion dollars a year, and they don’t tell him?” Trump also added that he believes that Pakistan does not do “a darn thing” to help out the United States, despite the over one billion a year in foreign aid Pakistan receives from the US.
After Trump harshly criticized Pakistan, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan came out against the statements from President Trump. Khan tweeted “Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the US should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140000 NATO troops plus 250,000 Afghan troops & reportedly $1 trillion spent on war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before.” Khan believes that his government and nation have faced the majority of the brunt of the American war on terror throughout the Middle East and South Asia. “No Pakistani was involved in 9/11 but Pak decided to participate in US War on Terror,” Khan said. “Pakistan suffered 75,000 casualties in this war & over $123 billion was lost to economy. US “aid” was a minuscule $20 billion.” Khan also pointed out that Pakistan continues to support American efforts in Afghanistan, with the American troops using Pakistani roads and air space for re-supply.
Pakistani-American relations have been falling apart since Trump took office. Though history has shown us that Pakistani and American relations have rarely been eminent, they have been especially poor the last few years. In early January, the Trump administration decided to end all military aid to Pakistan. The State Department said these cuts were due to Pakistan harboring actors who continue to “destabilize the region and targeting US personnel.” In February, the US was working to put Pakistan on a global terror list. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an international, intergovernmental organization that works to combat money laundering and terrorism funding. The US pushed to have Pakistan be reviewed by the FATF board, as the US believes that Pakistan is funding terrorist groups like the Taliban. The US was successful in their efforts and got Pakistan on this “gray list”. This list makes it much harder for Pakistan to obtain international loans and gain outside investment.
This massive cut in foreign aid is just another chapter in the recent story of deteriorating US-Pakistan relations. Though some believed that Trump and Khan may have gotten along due to similar stories and personalities, their relationship has been very rocky from the start. These moves by the Trump administration have all been a part of the “South Asia Strategy”, which is a program where the US hopes to curb safe havens for terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Trump has explicitly called out Khan and Pakistan for to providing “safe havens to agents of chaos, violence and terror.” It is likely that we will continue to see substantial cuts from the Trump administration towards all fronts of Pakistan, which will only contribute to the worsening of US-Pakistan relations.