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Donald Trump has opened the new year by threatening to withhold aid to Pakistan, a longtime US ally, accusing Islamabad of “giving us nothing but lies and deceit” and “thinking of our leaders as fools”.
The US president used his first tweet of 2018 to single out the south Asian power and accuse it of harbouring terrorists, repeating a complaint that has been an irritant in bilateral ties since the September 11 attacks of 2001.
“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” Mr Trump wrote.
The intervention on Pakistan came alongside another on Iran, where anti-government protests have drawn support from Washington. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un also used his new year’s message to offer to hold talks with the new government in Seoul, while warning Washington that he had a button on his desk that could launch nuclear-armed missiles at the US.
Together, the three different fronts highlight the foreign policy challenges confronting the Trump administration in 2018 and how the president’s own unpredictable interventions may colour the US response.
Just what provoked Mr Trump to single out Pakistan was unclear. But the Trump administration said last year that it was delaying $255m in military aid to Islamabad as part of a new Afghanistan strategy. Mr Trump has also complained before about Pakistan’s lack of co-operation in dealing with Islamic militants.