–‘Trump did not take lightly the decision to cancel a substantial part of military aid package to Pakistan’
US National Security Adviser John Bolton addressed the Federalist Society in Washington DC the other day on the topic of the International Criminal Court’s request for permission to investigate some US defense and intelligence personnel for “alleged war crimes”.
During the question and answer session that followed his speech, a Pakistani journalist asked a question unrelated to the ICC. Instead, he asked about Imran Khan’s election and the suspension of military assistance to Pakistan.
Bolton referred to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent visit to Islamabad and said, “He wanted to convey the message that we hoped and expected that Pakistan would cooperate fully in the war against terrorism which they had committed to do. It was before my time but the Trump administration did not take the decision to cancel a substantial part of the military aid package to Pakistan lightly. It was done knowing that Pakistan is a nuclear state and the risk that the government could fall into the hands of terrorists who would get control of those nuclear weapons was particularly serious. But it is a serious problem on the sub-continent and I hope it’s one that the new government of Pakistan addresses because this terrorist threat is a threat, I think, to the majority of the people in Pakistan not to the terrorists and not to the some of their supporters in the military and elsewhere. It’s a matter of extra-ordinary importance to the United States and one that we hope that the new government addresses”.
The fear of Pakistani nuclear weapons falling into terrorists’ hands has existed since the 1990s. In an article in the New York Times in April 2017, Rahmatullah Nabil, the former head of Afghan intelligence, claimed that internal Pakistani classified documents had expressed concerns regarding terrorists’ threats to the country’s nuclear assets.
President Trump himself vented his frustration on Pakistan. He tweeted on New Year’s Day, “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan over 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe havens to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”. Despite these strong words, action has been limited to putting economic pressure on Pakistan through suspending military assistance and the Financial Action Task Force. Pakistan has absorbed all this pressure.