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Trump Administration Cuts Aid To Pakistan


We turn now to news from the Pentagon, which is canceling $300 million in aid to Pakistan. The Trump administration is making good on its promise to cancel the funds, blaming what it says is Pakistan's failure to take on militant groups in the country. The latest cuts are also part of a broader suspension of aid to Pakistan under President Trump, who has accused the country of rewarding past aid with, quote, "nothing but deceit and lies." Joining us to talk about all of this is Husain Haqqani. He served as Pakistan's ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2011. Welcome, Ambassador. Thank you so much for joining us.

HUSAIN HAQQANI: Pleasure being here, Michel.

MARTIN: The aid has been suspended. But yesterday, the Pentagon officially confirmed that it's canceling this aid altogether. What's the significance of this?

HAQQANI: Well, in money terms, none because the money was already suspended. But, in political terms, the message from Washington, D.C., is we have not been satisfied with what Pakistan is doing in dealing with militants that attack outside of Pakistan and that we will continue to mount pressure. It is unlikely to make Pakistan make the changes that the U.S. wants. But, still, it's an important message.

MARTIN: So let me just step away from the politics for a second just to ask about what that money was used for because many people might remember that the U.S. has relied upon Pakistan in the past to help carry out the war in Afghanistan. So what was that money being used for? And will the loss of it actually be felt?

HAQQANI: Well, theoretically, the money is reimbursement to Pakistan for expenses that it incurs in the effort against terrorism. The problem has been that while Pakistan has acted against jihadi terrorists who attack inside Pakistan, Pakistan is accused by both the United States and Afghanistan of sponsoring a lot of terrorists who act in Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban.

MARTIN: And I'm going to ask you whether there is any validity to the U.S. view here.

HAQQANI: I think that the U.S. view is not without foundation. There are people in Pakistan, including myself, who think that it would be in Pakistan's interest to act against all jihadi groups. And, basically, on this particular issue, there is broad consensus, both on Capitol Hill and among people who deal with Pakistan, that Pakistan has to change.

MARTIN: So speaking of change, there is a leadership change in Pakistan. The - there's a newly inaugurated prime minister - Imran Khan. He is also expressing skepticism toward U.S. aid more broadly. And I'm wondering how this latest move is going to be received by him and by the country - and it is important to note that the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is slated to visit Islamabad on Wednesday. So this cannot have been a coincidence...

HAQQANI: Absolutely. So this was...

MARTIN: ...That the aid was canceled now.

HAQQANI: So this was, basically, a signal to Imran Khan and his new team on the civilian side that, look. You don't seem to understand the gravity of American anger or the subject that the Taliban continue to get support from Pakistan. And American troops keep getting killed in Afghanistan because of people you provide a safe haven to. So, you know, we - Secretary Pompeo hopes to deliver a tough message. And this step is one of those prewesit (ph) actions that are meant to convey to the Pakistani side that you better take our message seriously.

MARTIN: What is your expectation of this meeting on Wednesday?

HAQQANI: I think that this is one of those meetings that you always have to have. So Secretary Pompeo is stopping over, along with the chairman joint chiefs, in Islamabad to kind of deliver a final sort of message that, look. Either you play ball with us or be prepared for this relationship to get degraded even further.

MARTIN: That's Husain Haqqani. He served as Pakistan's ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2011. He's currently director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute, which is a conservative-leaning research institute in Washington, D.C. He was kind enough to join us here in our studios in Washington, D.C. Ambassador, thank you so much for speaking with us.

HAQQANI: Always a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.