President Trump rang in the New Year early Monday by attacking Pakistan on Twitter, a nuclear armed country with an already-strained relationship with United States.
“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,” he wrote. “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”
The tweet did not seem to be in response to anything in particular, as Trump had been busy targeting Iran in the days prior. In a subsequent tweet on Monday, he blamed Iran for “failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration.”
Trump’s relationship with Pakistan, whose Foreign Minister Khawaja M. Asif on Monday promised to respond to Trump’s tweet, grew tense in 2017.
Just after his election in November 2016, then-president elect Trump sang Pakistan’s praises in a phone call with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — saying that “Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people.”
In February, however, Trump effectively ignored a devastating wave of attacks in the country, which left more than 100 people dead. As ThinkProgress reported at the time, the official White House account was also silent on the matter, although the State Department did manage to retweet condolences from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.
Later in August, Trump singled out Pakistan in a speech about his vague new strategy in Afghanistan, criticizing the country for harboring extremist groups fighting U.S. forces in the region. “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” he said in a speech that month. “Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor terrorists.”
A day later, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson detailed the few specifics of Trump’s new military strategy, which relied heavily on Pakistan and India — two rival nuclear powers — for support. In addition to announcing an unspecified troop surge, Tillerson explained that the United States would depend on Pakistan to up its fight against extremism, blasting Pakistan’s inaction against Taliban militants and threatening it with aid withdrawal.
“We are going to be conditioning our support for Pakistan and our relationship with them on them delivering results in this area,” Tillerson said. He added that the United States was prepared to withdraw Pakistan’s status as a non-NATO ally, pulling vital support in the process, should Pakistani officials be deemed uncooperative.
Those official administration statements were met with criticism by Pakistani officials, who claimed the Trump administration was ignoring the country’s assistance in other crucial areas.
“No country in the world has suffered more than Pakistan from the scourge of terrorism, often perpetrated from outside our borders. It is, therefore, disappointing that the US policy statement ignores the enormous sacrifices rendered by the Pakistani nation in this effort,” the Pakistani Foreign Ministry wrote in a statement. “…As a matter of policy, Pakistan does not allow use of its territory against any country.”
In October, in an apparent effort to ratchet down tensions, Trump claimed that he was “starting to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders.”
“I want to thank them for their cooperation on many fronts,” he tweeted.
The president’s more recent, antagonistic tweet follows a New York Times report that the White House was preparing to withhold some $225 million in aid to Pakistan, in retaliation for it’s failure to clamp down on extremism.