US will withhold $255m of aid to Pakistan over alleged state-sponsored terrorism

Harriet Agerholm

Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, has said America will withhold $225m (£166m) in aid from Pakistan.

Ms Haley said there were “clear reasons” for stopping the payment, adding that Pakistan had “played a double game for years”.

“They work with us at times, and they also harbour the terrorists that attack our troops in Afghanistan,” she said. “That game is not acceptable to this administration. We expect far more cooperation from Pakistan in the fight against terrorism.”

Her comments mirrored those of her president, Donald Trump, who had previously accused the south Asian country of “lies and deceit”.

“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,” Mr Trump tweeted.

“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

Pakistan’s prime minister, Shahid Khaqn Abbasi, responded by calling a meeting of the country’s National Security Committee (NSC), which comprises of military and security chiefs as well as civilian leaders.

The committee condemned Mr Trump’s accusations, saying they were ”completely incomprehensible” and “negated the decades of sacrifices made by the Pakistani nation”.

Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi replied to Mr Trump’s Twitter post by saying her country’s fight against terrorism was based on national principles, rather than on aid packages it may receive.

“We have contributed and sacrificed the most in fighting international terrorism and carried out the largest counter terrorism operation anywhere in the world,” Ms Lodhi said. “We can review our cooperation if it is not appreciated.”

Relations between Pakistan and the US have soured in recent years over Islamabad’s alleged support for Haqqani network militants, who are linked to the Afghan Taliban.

The US also claims senior Afghan Taliban commanders live on Pakistani soil. In 2016, Taliban leader Mullah Mansour was killed by a US drone strike in Pakistan and in 2011, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by US troops in Abbottabad.

Pakistan’s foreign minister, Khawaja Asif, accused the Mr Trump of trying to blame his nation for the US’ failure in the war in Afghanistan.

“Trump is disappointed at the US defeat in Afghanistan and that is the only reason he is flinging accusations at Pakistan,” he told the Pakistani TV news channel Geo.

He added that “Pakistan is ready to publicly provide every detail of the US aid that it has received”.

The White House said it was likely to announce measures to exert pressure on Pakistan in the coming days. Press secretary Sarah Sanders said: ”They can do more to stop terrorism and we want them to do that.”

Agencies contributed to this report