The bilateral relationship between the United States and Pakistan has touched a new low following suspension of all future security aid for Islamabad and a bitter Twitter war between Donald Trump and Imran Khan over the issue of fighting terrorism. The present dispensation in Washington has been quite unsparing in confronting Islamabad on its duplicity when it comes to reining in the terror outfits operating from its soil. The ‘good terrorist, bad terrorist’ narrative, assiduously nurtured by Pakistan’s military establishment, stands thoroughly exposed now in the eyes of the international community. The latest spat on social media reflects further deepening of mutual suspicion. Never known to mince his words, Trump took to the microblogging site and, in his inimitable brusque style, attacked Pakistan for failing to act against al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and for not doing a “damn thing” for the US after receiving billions of dollars in aid. Khan responded on Twitter, saying that the US should make a realistic assessment of why the Taliban is much stronger now than before and not make Pakistan the scapegoat for its failures in Afghanistan. Over the past few decades, Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders have turned a blind eye to activities of ‘friendly’ jihadis while accepting billions of dollars in aid from the US, including funds meant to be used to target some of those same terrorists. The US is not without fault either. For years, it ignored warnings from countries like India about terror groups operating from Pakistani soil.
It is clear that Trump’s tough stance, including suspension of security aid and repeated calls for Pakistan to crack down on terrorists, has not had the desired effect on Imran Khan’s government, which enjoys the complete backing of the military. A counter-terrorism strategy, recently unveiled by the US, listed Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan among terrorist organisations that could potentially target the country, its interests and personnel. The Trump administration punished Pakistan earlier this year by suspending nearly $2 billion in security-related aid over its continued reluctance to act decisively against terrorists operating from its soil. This was part of a tough new approach towards the one-time ally unveiled in the South Asian strategy last year. Trump had followed that up with a New Year tweet accusing Pakistan of “lies and deceit”. There was a growing pressure from American lawmakers to link the aid to Pakistan to the credible anti-terror measures on the ground. It is time Pakistani rulers, particularly the military establishment, did some serious introspection of their policies and realise how they have created Frankenstein monsters by nurturing anti-India terror outfits on their soil. They are virtually riding a tiger and appear clueless about how to get off without being eaten up.