This article is part of a series that reflects on the first year of the Trump administration.
US President Donald J. Trump started off 2018 with a tweet blasting Pakistan for providing safe havens to terrorists. Days later, the Trump administration cut off what is expected to be $1.3 billion in annual security aid to Pakistan. It is betting that this strategy will lead Pakistan to get tough with all terrorists on its soil. Will it?
What was US policy prior to Trump? Recent US administrations—Democratic as well as Republican—viewed Pakistan as a critical (if somewhat flawed) partner in the US war in Afghanistan. Pakistan, after all, controls vital air and ground supply routes on which the US-led coalition in Afghanistan is heavily dependent.
What Trump said:
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. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018
What has changed? The Trump administration has cut off what is expected to be as much as $1.3 billion in annual security aid to Pakistan. It is betting that this strategy will lead Pakistan to get tough with all terrorists to which it currently provides sanctuary.
Former US presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush had also concluded that Pakistan was not a sincere partner in the war on terrorism. Obama, in fact, suspended $800 million in aid to Pakistan in the summer of 2011. However, this punitive measure did little to alter Pakistani behavior and the aid was restored to a country that remains key to the success of the US war in Afghanistan.
Ashish Kumar Sen is deputy director of communications at the Atlantic Council. Follow him on Twitter @AshishSen.