The United States on Thursday suspended security assistance to Pakistani military and demanded “decisive action” against Taliban factions based in the country. Pakistan now will not receive almost $1.3 billion (Rs 8,238 crore) in annual aid, The New York Times reported.

“Until the Pakistani government takes decisive action against groups, including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, that are destabilising the region and targeting US personnel, the United States will suspend security assistance to the Pakistani military,” US Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert said.

The president had made it clear in his South Asia policy announcement in August 2017 that there could be no partnership with countries that harbour militants who target US service members and officials, Nauert said. “More than four months later, these groups still find sanctuary inside Pakistan,” she added.

The State Department official acknowledged that Pakistan had been the target of terrorist attacks, but added that the US needs Islamabad “to deny safe haven to, or lawfully detain, those who threaten US interests”.

“We hope to renew and deepen our bilateral security relationship when Pakistan demonstrates willingness to aggressively confront Afghan Taliban, Haqqani Network, and others who operate from its territory,” Nauert said.

Islamabad clarifies stance on criticism from the United States

In response, the Pakistan Foreign Office on Friday said that Islamabad fought the war against terrorism “largely from its own resources”, at a cost of $120 billion (Rs 7.6 lakh crore) in 15 years.

“We believe that Pakistan-US cooperation in fighting terrorism has directly served US national security interests as well as the larger interests of international community,” the Pakistani statement read. “It has helped decimate Al-Qaeda and fight other groups who took advantage of ungoverned spaces, a long porous border and posed a common threat to peace.”

The Pakistan Foreign Office said that the country awaited “reciprocal action” by Afghanistan in the form of “clearance of vast stretches of ungoverned spaces on the Afghan side, bilateral border management, repatriation of Afghan refugees, controlling poppy cultivation, drug trafficking and initiating Afghan-led and owned political reconciliation”.

In a dig at the US administration, the foreign office added that “arbitrary deadlines, unilateral pronouncements and shifting goalposts are counterproductive in addressing common threats” the two countries face. However, it said that the impact of the US decision to halt funding to Pakistan would become clear only in due course of time.

Widening rift

On January 1, US President Donald Trump claimed that Pakistan had given his country nothing but “lies and deceit” in return for $33 billion (Rs 2.10 lakh crore) in aid over the last 15 years.

Pakistani Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir-Khan had rebuked the US president’s tweet on January 1 and said that though Islamabad was its ally, America has given it nothing but invective and mistrust.

The rift between the two countries have been widening in the past few months. In December, Pakistan voted at the United Nations to condemn Trump’s move to recognise Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Trump had explicitly threatened to withdraw foreign aid from those countries that voted against the US.