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Trump's first tweet of 2018 sparks crisis in Pakistan as it summons US Ambassador

Pakistan's foreign minister says Trump is 'displacing frustrations on Pakistan over failures in Afghanistan' 

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Tuesday 02 January 2018 18:07 GMT
Activists of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council shout anti-US slogans at a protest in Karachi on 2 January 2018.
Activists of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council shout anti-US slogans at a protest in Karachi on 2 January 2018. (ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan called in the US Ambassador and held an emergency meeting of its national security team in light of President Donald Trump’s tweet accusing the country of “lies and deceit”.

Ambassador David Hale met with Pakistani foreign office officials to explain the 1 January tweet, a spokesperson for the US Embassy in Islamabad confirmed to Reuters.

Mr Trump had tweeted for the first time in 2018 that the US “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 also tweeted that Pakistan “give[s] safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.”

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment, but Minister Khawaja Asif said about Mr Trump on the local GeoTV station: “He has tweeted against us and Iran for his domestic consumption.”

“He is again and again displacing his frustrations on Pakistan over failures in Afghanistan as they are trapped in dead-end street in Afghanistan,” Mr Asif said.

Pakistan has served as an important logistical stop in the US war in Afghanistan the past 17 years.

The tweet also sparked protests from hundreds of members of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council, a coalition of Islamist parties in Karachi. They were holding signs that read "Dump Trump."

An emergency meeting was held with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the Foreign, Interior, and Defence Ministers, as well as military branch chiefs as well.

Donald Trump says U.S. approach to Pakistan will change 'immediately'

Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir-Khan responded via Twitter as well, writing that Pakistan is an “anti-terror ally” of the US and as such has provided the American military with “land & air communication, military bases & intel cooperation that decimated Al-Qaeda” since 2001 when the war started as a response to the September 11th attacks.

The minister did not mention that terrorist Osama bin Laden was living in the garrison town of Abbotabad for several years before he was killed in a special forces raid during the previous administration of Barack Obama in 2011.

He tweeted that the US has “given us nothing but invective & mistrust.”

Mr Dastgir-Khan also accused the US of ignoring “cross-border safe havens of terrorists who murder Pakistanis.”

The major sticking point is also $255m (£166m) of foreign aid.

A US National Security Council official said the White House did not plan to send the already-delaed aid package to Pakistan "at this time" and that "the administration continues to review Pakistan's level of cooperation".

US Defence Secretary James Mattis had already delayed a military-specific aid package of $50m (£37m) in July over concerns Pakistan was not doing enough to tamp down on the Haqqani Network or Taliban terror groups - both priorities for the US across the border in Afghanistan.

Though Pakistan is considered a major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) ally of the US, it still needs the annual certification which Mr Mattis stalled in order to get the yearly aid package.

In August, Mr Trump declared that Pakistan "gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror” when he announced a renewed strategy for America’s longest war.

Concerns in Islamabad have been growing under Mr Trump’s administration, particularly because of his seemingly positive relationship with neighbour and rival India.

A junior minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office, Jitendra Singh, said Mr Trump’s tweet and the decision to withhold aid has “vindicated India’s stand as far as terror is concerned and as far as Pakistan’s role in perpetrating terrorism is concerned.”

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