WASHINGTON, June 20 (SABAH): A foreign news agency has claimed that the United States President Donald Trump’s administration appears ready to harden its approach toward Pakistan to crack down on Pakistan-based militants launching attacks in neighboring Afghanistan.
Potential Trump administration responses being discussed include expanding U.S. drone strikes, redirecting or withholding some aid to Pakistan and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally, the U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
U.S. officials say they seek greater cooperation with Pakistan, not a rupture in ties, once the administration finishes a regional review of the strategy guiding the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan. Precise actions have yet to be decided.
The White House and Pentagon declined to comment on the review before its completion. Pakistan’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The United States and Pakistan continue to partner on a range of national security issues,” Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said.
Although long mindful of Pakistan, the Trump administration in recent weeks has put more emphasis on the relationship with Islamabad in discussions as it hammers out a the regional strategy to be presented to Trump by mid-July, nearly six months after he took office, one official said.
“We’ve never really fully articulated what our strategy towards Pakistan is. The strategy will more clearly say what we want from Pakistan specifically,” the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Other U.S. officials warn of divisions within the government about the right approach and question whether any mix of carrots and sticks can get Islamabad to change its behavior. At the end of the day, Washington needs a partner, even if an imperfect one, in nuclear-armed Pakistan, they say.
“I believe there will be a much harder U.S. line on Pakistan going forward than there has been in the past,” Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan ambassador to the United States, told the foreign news agency, without citing specific measures under review.
“What Pakistan says is that we are already doing a lot and that our plate is already full,” a senior Pakistani government source told, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The source doubted the Trump administration would press too hard, saying: “They don’t want to push Pakistan to abandon their war against terrorism.”
Pakistani officials point towards the toll militancy has taken on the country. Since 2003, almost 22,000 civilians and nearly 7,000 Pakistani security forces have been killed as a result of militancy, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, which tracks violence.