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US considers dropping Pakistan as an ally: report

US Pakistan

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration is considering dropping Pakistan as an ally as it examines tough measures to quell more than 20 terrorist groups it says are based in the country, according to a report by UK publication.

The Financial Times reported that officials familiar with the Pakistan prong of Washington’s new “AfPak” strategy — which involves an open-ended commitment in Afghanistan and praise for India — say it has yet to be fleshed out. But they have plenty of levers.

On August 22, Trump indicated that single-minded approach would extend to US relations with troubled ally Pakistan, which consecutive US administrations have criticized for links with the Taliban and for harboring leading militants.

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations,” he had said warning that vital aid could be cut.

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” he said. “That will have to change and that will change immediately.”

The administration has already put $255m in military aid on hold after Mr Trump announced the policy shift.

It is eyeing an escalating series of threats, which include cutting some civilian aid and conducting unilateral drone strikes on Pakistani soil. It could also revoke Pakistan’s status as a major non-Nato ally or designate it a state sponsor of terrorism. The latter options would limit weapons sales and probably affect billions of dollars in IMF and World Bank loans, along with access to global finance.

“Thinking of Pakistan as an ally will continue to create problems for the next administration as it did for the last one,” Lisa Curtis, former CIA analyst who now leads South Asia policy in the National Security Council, wrote in a joint report with Hussain Haqqani earlier this year.

Ms Curtis, who works closely with the state department, believes the Obama administration “erred” by relying on personal ties and aid packages to try to change Pakistan’s behaviour.

Mike Mullen, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, visited Pakistan more than 25 times during his 2007-11 tenure, seeking close ties with powerful army head and former spy chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. “It was my belief and continues to be my belief that unless we had an ally that we could work together to greatly eliminate the threat then our efforts in Afghanistan were going to fail,” said Mr Mullen.

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