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White House To Announce 'Specific Actions' Against Pakistan Within Two Days

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (center-right) talks with U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis (center-left) during their meeting in Islamabad on December 4.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (center-right) talks with U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis (center-left) during their meeting in Islamabad on December 4.

The White House has said that it wants to see Pakistan do more to fight terrorism and that Washington will likely announce "specific actions" within the next two days to pressure Islamabad.

"Our goal is that we know that they can do more to stop terrorism and we want them to do that," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.

Earlier on January 2, Pakistan criticized the United States for a Twitter post by President Donald Trump that threatened to cut of billions of dollars in aid. Trump also accused Islamabad of "lies and deceit," and providing a safe haven for terrorists.

Pakistan's National Security Committee, a body that deals with defense issues, said in a January 2 statement that Pakistan "cannot be held responsible for the collective failure in Afghanistan."

The statement said "blaming allies certainly does not serve the shared objective of achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan and the region."

Meanwhile, a statement issued on January 2 by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi's office said Islamabad will remain committed to playing a constructive role toward an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process despite "unwarranted allegations."

The prime minister's statement said the real challenges in Afghanistan were political infighting, massive corruption, phenomenal growth of drug production, and the expansion of ungoverned spaces inside Afghanistan full of sanctuaries for multiple international terrorist organizations that pose a direct threat to Afghanistan, its neighbors, and the region.

Earlier on January 2, Pakistan summoned U.S. Ambassador David Hale in response to Trump's threatening January 1 Twitter message -- his first tweet of 2018.

Pakistani officials publicly accused the United States of "mistrust."

But the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, told reporters in New York on January 2 that "there are clear reasons" for the Trump administration to withhold $255 million in assistance to Pakistan.

"Pakistan has played a double game for years," Haley said. "They work with us at times, and they also harbor the terrorists that attack our troops in Afghanistan. That game is not acceptable to this administration."

Trump's tweet said that the United States had "foolishly" given Pakistan more than $33 billion 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!" he added.

The White House then confirmed it would continue to withhold $255 million in military aid to Pakistan out of frustration over what it has characterized as Islamabad's obstinacy in confronting terrorist networks.

It first started a "temporary withholding" of the funds, part of a $1.1 billion aid package authorized in 2016 by Congress, in August.

Pakistani Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan returned the criticism in a tweet noting that Islamabad "as anti-terror ally has given free to US: land & air communication, military bases & intel cooperation that decimated Al-Qaeda over last 16yrs, but [the United States has] given us nothing but invective & mistrust."

Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif told Pakistan's Urdu-language Geo Television that "the United States should hold its own people accountable for its failures in Afghanistan."

"America is frustrated over defeat in Afghanistan. America should take the path of dialogue instead of using military might in Afghanistan," Asif said.

Asif added that all financial aid from the United States had been "properly audited" and that "services [were] rendered."

The Afghan ambassador to the United States, Hamdullah Mohib, welcomed Trump's tweet.

Pakistan "receives funds from the United States to fight against terrorists, but it has not destroyed terrorist safe havens from where terrorists continuously carry out attacks in Afghanistan," he told RFE/RL on January 1.

[Trump's tweet] is a positive message for us, should U.S. pressure on Pakistan increase," Mohib added. "If the funds that Pakistan receives from the U.S. are cut off, this can exert direct pressure on Pakistan and we welcome this effort."

However, China gave Islamabad its backing, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang saying that Pakistan "has made a prominent contribution to global antiterror efforts."

"The international community should fully recognize this," he added.

Trump and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence have in the past accused Islamabad of supporting terrorist groups that the U.S. president once called "agents of chaos." U.S. officials have also demanded that Pakistan act against the Taliban and Haqqani network.

The frequency of suspected U.S. drone attacks near the Pakistani-Afghan border has increased notably since Trump introduced his Afghanistan strategy in August.

After a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah at the presidential palace in Kabul late on December 21, Pence had sharp words for Islamabad, saying that while Pakistan had much to gain from working with the United States, it also has much to lose by harboring "criminals and terrorists."

"President Trump has put Pakistan on notice," Pence said at the time.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and Dawn