Trump to Pakistan: ‘No Partnership Can Survive a Country’s Harboring of Militants and Terrorists Who Target US’

By Patrick Goodenough | August 21, 2017 | 11:05 PM EDT

President Trump delivers a speech on Afghanistan and South Asia policy, in Fort Myer, Virginia on Monday, August 21, 2017. (Screengrab: White House video)

( – President Trump put Pakistan on notice Monday, accusing America’s often most troubling ally of giving “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror “ and warning that it was time for it “to demonstrate its commitment to to civilization, order and peace.”

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” Trump said from Fort Myer military base in Arlington, Virginia, outlying his plan for a path ahead in the nation’s longest war.

He said Pakistan had much to gain by partnering with the U.S. in Afghanistan – and “much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.”

Trump acknowledged the Pakistani people’s suffering at the hands of terrorists, but said that at the same time the country has “sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people.”

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars, at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” he continued.

“But that will have to change – and that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials. It’s time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace.”

Pakistan has for years been among the biggest recipients of U.S. foreign assistance. American taxpayers have accounted for more than $33 billion to the country since the 9/11 terror attacks – either in direct aid or in reimbursement for its counterterrorism efforts.

Yet critics, including many in the U.S., India and Afghanistan, have long accused it of playing a double game – sponsoring and colluding with some terror groups in furtherance of its foreign policy objectives.

The most recent State Department country reports on terrorism identified Pakistan, again, as a “terrorist safe haven,” identifying the Haqqani Network (a Taliban faction), Lashkar e-Toiba, and Jaish-e-Mohammad among “numerous terrorist groups” that have continued to operate from its territory. All three are U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs).

In his speech Trump noted that 20 FTO’s are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan – “the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world.”

Trump’s assertion that the U.S. could no longer be silent about Pakistan’s collusion with terrorists bothered some former Obama administration officials on Twitter.

“Have we been silent on safe havens in Pakistan?” asked former State Department spokesman Jen Psaki.

“No,” declared former Obama advisor Dan Pfeiffer.

“Obama took out bin Laden in Pakistan,” tweeted former deputy national security adviser for strategic communications Ben Rhodes.

‘We are killing terrorists’

As he laid out his broader strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia, the president gave no timetables and announced no troop numbers, instead signaling “a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions.”

“We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities,” he said. “Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on.”

Trump acknowledged his months in the Oval Office had affected his perspective: His original instinct had been to withdraw totally from Afghanistan, but after detailed study and many meetings with his cabinet and generals, he had reached the decisions outlined on Monday.

He called for “an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives.”

“A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al-Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11 [2001],” he said.

Trump said the U.S. will continue to support the Afghan government and military as it confronts the Taliban, but challenged the notion that the U.S. would return to a policy of attempting to impose norms on Afghanistan.

“Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society, and to achieve an everlasting peace,” he said. “We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society.”

“We are not nation-building again; We are killing terrorists.”

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow