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Pompeo to toe hard line in Pakistan; no plan to resume halted U.S. aid

September 4, 2018

U.S. officials say Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will toe a hard line with Pakistan’s new government when he visits Islamabad this week, roughly nine months after President Trump halted security aid to the South Asian nation on grounds it gives “safe haven to terrorists.”

Mr. Pompeo and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are slated Wednesday to hold the first high-level meetings with the newly-elected government of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan before heading Thursday to India, where they’ll be joined by Defense Secretary James Mattis for meetings with Indian leaders.

Analysts say the Pakistan visit presents a chance for Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Dunford to hammer home the message that Mr. Trump has no intention of softening his stance on security assistance for Islamabad.

“Above all, Secretary Pompeo wants to reinforce to the new leadership in Pakistan that, it can no longer expect ‘business as usual’ from the Trump administration,” says Jeff Smith, a South Asia research fellow with the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

“While prior U.S. governments demanded Pakistan take action against the myriad militant groups operating from its soil and with the support of its security establishment, they proved unwilling to impose costs on Islamabad for its inaction,” Mr. Smith said in comments circulated to reporters by the conservative think tank Tuesday. “The Trump administration has broken with that mold.”

Mr. Trump announced the aid cut in January after tweeting his frustration over years of U.S. policy toward Pakistan, where the former Obama administration carried out dozens of drone strikes against terrorist suspects, and where a clandestine U.S. Special Forces raid killed the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.

“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,” Mr. Trump tweeted before announcing the aid cut. “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

A top Pentagon official signaled that the administration has no plans to soften its posture ahead of this week’s visit to Islamabad by Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Dunford.

“Our approach of cutting assistance and pressuring Pakistan on their relationship with the Taliban, persuading them to come to the table, dealing with terrorist networks, that will be sustained,” said Assistant Secretary of Defense Randall G. Schriver.

According to a report by Voice of America, Mr. Schriver made the assertion Wednesday during public remarks at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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