ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan summoned the US ambassador in protest against US President Donald Trump’s angry tweet about Pakistan’s “lies and deceit”, while Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif dismissed the outburst as a political stunt.
David Hale was summoned by the Pakistan foreign office on Monday to explain Mr Trump’s tweet, media said. A spokesperson for the US embassy in Islamabad confirmed the meeting took place.
In a withering attack, Mr Trump on Monday said the US had “foolishly” handed Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid in the last 15 years and had been rewarded with “nothing but lies and deceit”.
“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” Mr Trump tweeted.
Mr Trump’s harsh words drew praise from Pakistan’s old foe, India, and neighbouring Afghanistan, but long-time ally China defended Pakistan’s record of combating “terrorism”.
Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was to chair a cabinet meeting yesterday focusing the tweet, while the country’s top civilian and military chiefs will meet today to discuss deteriorating US ties.
Relations between the US and its uneasy ally Pakistan have been strained for many years over Islamabad’s alleged support for Haqqani network militants, who are allied with the Afghan Taliban.
The US also alleges senior Afghan Taliban commanders live on Pakistani soil. In 2016, the then-Taliban leader Mullah Mansour was killed by a US drone strike inside Pakistan and in 2011, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was found and killed by US troops in Abbottabad.
Washington has signalled to Pakistan that it will cut aid and enact other punitive measures if Islamabad does not stop helping or turning a blind eye to the Haqqani militants who carry out cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.
Islamabad bristles at the suggestion it is not doing enough in the war against militancy, saying that since 2001, Pakistan has suffered more than the US from militancy as casualties at the hands of Islamists number in the tens of thousands.
Pakistani foreign minister Asif dismissed Mr Trump’s comments as a political stunt borne out of frustration over US failures in Afghanistan, where Taliban militants have been gaining territory and carrying out major attacks.
“He has tweeted against us (Pakistan) and Iran for his domestic consumption,” Mr Asif told Geo TV on Monday.
“He is again and again displacing his frustrations on Pakistan over failures in Afghanistan as they are trapped in dead-end street in Afghanistan.”
Mr Asif added that Pakistan did not need US aid.
A US National Security Council official said the White House did not plan to send $255 million in aid to Pakistan “at this time”.