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According to Dawn on December 27, a US drone strike near the Pak-Afghan border in Kurram Agency killed at least two suspected militants. Earlier, on December 18, 2017, a US drone fired a missile at a compound in the Kurram Agency.

The frequent US drone strikes came amid Pakistan Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman’s warning earlier in December 2017, whereby he ordered the Air Force to shoot down any drones that enter the country’s airspace including ones belonging to the US. 

On December 18, the Trump Administration released the US National Security Strategy 2017, which called upon Pakistan, “to continue demonstrating that it is a responsible steward of its nuclear assets.”

Highlighting US interests in the region, the US National Security Strategy calls for preventing cross-border terrorism, which raises the prospect of military and nuclear tensions, and preventing nuclear weapons technology, and materials from falling into the hands of terrorists. The new strategy also highlights concerns on, “the prospect for an Indo-Pakistani military conflict that could lead to a nuclear exchange.” During his speech on National Security Strategy, Trump said, “while we desire continued partnership we must see decisive action against terrorist groups operating within Pakistan.” He added that Pakistan has to help us as it gets “massive payments every year” from the US. Pakistan rejected the Trump Administration’s new Security Strategy insisting that it ignores the country’s efforts to curb terrorism and to promote peace and stability in the region. On Nuclear weapons, Pakistan reiterated that the security standards of its nuclear assets are “second to no other nuclear state.” Pakistan also reminded the US that India’s “unchecked brutalisation of the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir” and killing of civilians in the ceasefire violations is a threat to regional stability. The new US Security Strategy was also met with disappointment in China and Russia. 

On December 22, Pakistan’s Foreign Office while responding to US Vice President, Mike Pence’s remarks that the US has “put Pakistan on notice for providing safe haven to the Taliban,” said that the statement was at “variance” with the recent “extensive conversations” Pakistan had with the US Administration.

The Foreign Office also said, “Allies do not put each other on notice”. Pence’s remarks came during an unannounced trip to Afghanistan. The US-Pak relations continue to spiral downwards with both sides blaming each other for the failure to counter Taliban. Earlier in December 2017, a Pentagon report informed the Congress that it would take unilateral steps in areas of divergence with Pakistan. Meanwhile, media reports have claimed that the Trump Administration might withhold $255million in aid to Pakistan. On December 22, 2017, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua briefed the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee and stressed that Islamabad is in conversation with Washington on various “two-way” concerns. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Military warned the US against “unilateral action”, saying there could be no compromise on national respect and sovereignty. · On December 19, US State Department Spokesperson, Heather Nauert expressed US concerns about Jamaat-ul-Dawa, leader Hafiz Saeed running for office in Pakistan during the 2018 elections. She said that the US offer of $10 million for information leading to Hafiz Saeed’s arrest is still valid and referred to Saeed as the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. The 31 comments by the State Department follow media reports that Saeed might contest the 2018 General Elections in Pakistan under the banner of the Milli Muslim League. 

During a six-nation first Speakers’ Conference in Islamabad on December 24, Senate Chairman, Raza Rabbani warned of the emergence of a nexus between the US, Israel and India.

Speakers from Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey participated in the conference titled “the challenges of terrorism and inter-regional connectivity”. Several issues including the occupation of Kashmir and the crises in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon were highlighted during the conference.      

On December 12, US President Donald Trump signed a $700 billion defence bill that included up to $700 million to reimburse Pakistan for supporting US military operations in Afghanistan.

Earlier, on November 16, 2017, the US Congress had passed the National Defence Authorisation Act, that also included $700m in Coalition Support Fund (CSF) for Pakistan as well. However, $350 million has been withheld and requires a certification by the US Secretary of Defence that Pakistan is, “significantly disrupting the safe havens of the Haqqani Network in Pakistan.” 

Quoting Pakistani and US officials, Dawn reported on December 11 that the US and Pakistan are engaged in quiet diplomacy to address their differences, particularly over the Afghanistan crisis.

The officials confirmed that the two countries had held a series of meetings before and after US Defence Secretary, James Mattis’s visit to Islamabad on December 4, 2017, showing the mutual desire to improve ties. Earlier in December 2017, Pentagon’s Chief spokesperson, Dana White said that the US aims to work with Pakistan to find “common ground” in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Afghan Ambassador to Islamabad, Omar Zakhilwal had also said he is optimistic that the bilateral ties between Kabul and Islamabad would improve in the near future. In recent days, Washington and Islamabad have renewed efforts to overcome their differences, particularly in tackling the Afghan crisis and have avoided tough rhetoric against each other. 31 Despite such efforts, the two sides remain wary of each other and have failed to reduce distrust. Speaking at the 2017 Atlantic Council-Korea Foundation Forum in Washington on December 12, 2017, Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson suggested that Pakistan could lose control of its territory unless it abandons ties with terrorist groups operating in the country that are growing in “size and influence.” Moreover, he accused Pakistan for allowing various terrorist organisations to find safe haven within its territories. Rex Tillerson, also said that he did not enjoy the actual task of dealing with countries like North Korea and Pakistan. Tillerson’s latest remarks could create further mistrust between Washington and Islamabad. 

On December 4, US Secretary of Defence, James Mattis visited Islamabad and held talks with Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Reiterating previous US calls, Secretary Mattis told the Pakistani leadership that Pakistan, “must redouble its efforts to confront militants and terrorists operating within” its territory. Mattis emphasised that Pakistan could play a vital role in working with the US and others to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan and added that the purpose of his visit was to find common grounds to ensure a long term relationship with Pakistan. Prime Minister Abbasi highlighted the need for a broad-based engagement to strengthen partnership between the two countries. He, however, maintained that there are no safe havens in Pakistan. The US frequently accuses Pakistan of providing safe havens to the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan denies the accusation, saying Washington is blaming Pakistan for its own failures in Afghanistan. Just before the Mattis’ visit to Pakistan, CIA Director, Mike Pompeo said, “We are going to do everything we can to ensure that safe havens no longer exist,” if Pakistan does not heed the US message.

On December 6, the Government of Pakistan expressed “grave concern” in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise the occupied City of Al-Quds AlSharif (Jerusalem) as the capital of Israel. 

In a related development on December 7, the National Assembly passed a resolution “strongly” condemning the US decision of shifting its Embassy to Jerusalem and termed it an “attack” on the Muslim Ummah. It called upon Washington to immediately reverse the decision. A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office noted that such a step was a clear violation of international law and UN Security Council resolutions particularly UNSCR 478 of 1980. While opposing the US’ plan to shift its embassy to Jerusalem, Pakistan asked the US to, “refrain from any move that alters the legal and historical status as well as character of Al-Quds Al-Sharif.” 

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During his visit to Pakistan on November 16, General Joseph Votel, Commander, US Central Command, met Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The two sides discussed issues related to regional security and Pak-Afghan border management. Reiterating the Trump Administration’s position, Votel stressed that Pakistan must “prevent all militants from operating within and across its borders”. General Bajwa told General Votel that Pakistan’s efforts for bringing peace in Afghanistan were not being reciprocated. The talks came days before US Secretary of Defence, James Mattis’s visit to Pakistan. In a related development on November 20, 2017, General John Nicholson, the Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan, expressed willingness to take action against militants involved in cross-border raids against Pakistan from Afghan soil. He said the offer was meant to, “discourage Pakistan’s Army from shooting at civilians across the Afghan border while responding to border raids by militants.” Earlier in November 2017, Afghan officials alleged that Pakistani forces had fired hundreds of rounds of mortar shells for several days into the Afghan border province of Kunar.

Dawn reported on November 14 that the US has asked Pakistan to repeal its blasphemy laws. The development follows the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), held in Geneva on November 13, 2017.

Meanwhile, India asked Pakistan to give freedom to the people of Azad Jammu & Kashmir by ending “illegal and forcible occupation”, whereas Pakistan accused India of “sabotaging the UPR platform with propaganda”.

During a news conference in Brussels on November 9, US Defence Secretary, James Mattis said that America’s NATO allies support Washington’s efforts to persuade Pakistan to eradicate terrorism from the region.

Mattis said that he had discussed the new US strategy for South Asia with NATO leaders as Washington needed their support for implementing this policy. He said that there’s a consensus between the US and its NATO allies on the need for “working together to get Pakistan to do everything it can to cut the insurgents off, the terrorists off.” However, Pakistan maintains that the US cannot blame Pakistan for its failures in Afghanistan’s War on Terror. Mattis’ remarks follow NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg’s announcement to increase the strength of Resolute Support Mission (RSM) in Afghanistan by 3,000 troops to 16,000. According to Pakistan, there is “no military solution” to the Afghan conflict and it stresses the need for a “political settlement.” Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua informed the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee that American officials have acknowledged the Afghan Taliban’s “temporary disruption in movements across the border.” In a related development on November 9, 2017, the US Congress also authorised $700m in Coalition Support Fund (CSF) to reimburse Pakistan for supporting US operations in Afghanistan. The authorisation is included in the reconciled text of the House and Senate versions of the 2018 National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA-2018). The reconciled version makes $350m of $700m available to Pakistan under the CSF contingent upon certification from the Secretary of Defence that Pakistan is taking demonstrable steps against the Haqqani network. However, the US Congress has removed a provision from the National Defence Authorisation Act 2018 that required the US Secretary of Defence to certify that Pakistan has taken steps to “significantly disrupt” the activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

On November 8, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Alice Wells said that the US is concerned about, “the threat to strategic stability in South Asia associated with the introduction of new nuclear capable ballistic or cruise missile systems in the region.”

She added, “The region and the world look to both Pakistan and India to safeguard against a nuclear conflict in South Asia.” She emphasised that the US is concerned about, “Pakistan’s growing fissile material stockpiles and its expanding and diversifying military nuclear and missile programmes.” Secretary Wells also asserted that the Trump Administration’s South Asia strategy also focuses on reducing tensions between Pakistan and India. However, she maintained that the US does not seek a role as a mediator between India and Pakistan, but “encourages both countries to restart dialogue.”

On November 6, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif said, “There is still trust deficit” in Pak-US relations.

The Foreign Minister’s remarks came during a Pak-US Track-II meeting hosted by the Regional Peace Institute (RPI) in Islamabad. Meanwhile, the US Ambassador David Hale, speaking at the inaugural session of the dialogue, said, “The US looks to Pakistan for decisive action against all terrorist groups operating from its soil. 

According to Dawn on November 2, the White House shared a list of 20 terrorist groups with Pakistani officials that the Trump Administration claims are operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

According to media reports, the White House list includes three types of militant groups including those who target Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). Top on the list is the Haqqani Network which, the US alleges, has safe havens in Pakistan. The other militant groups in the list include Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Harakatul Mujahideen, Jaish-eMohammed (JeM), Jundullah, Lashkar-i-Jhanghvi and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). 

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On October 30, Pakistan returned the five remaining US helicopters that were given to the country to monitor anti-narcotics operations in FATA and Balochistan and its border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan returned the first four helicopters on October 15, 2017. It had received the helicopters US in 2002. The helicopters were part of the Air Wing of the Ministry of Interior. According to Pakistani media, the US had asked Pakistan to ‘nationalise’ the helicopters, but the Pakistani government chose to return them. 

During his visit to Pakistan on October 24, US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson met with Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership including Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Following the discussions, Secretary Tillerson repeated US President Donald Trump’s demands for Pakistan to do more to eliminate alleged terrorist groups within its territory, a charge Pakistan has repeatedly rejected. Tillerson, however, called Pakistan an “incredibly important” player for maintaining peace and security in the region. Meanwhile, PM Abbasi reiterated the government’s policy of a peaceful neighbourhood and its efforts to bring stability in Afghanistan. Rejecting Tillerson’s accusation, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif emphasised that there are no terrorist hideouts within Pakistan. He said, “Taliban do not need our territory when 40% of Afghan territory is now under their direct control.” Following his visit to Pakistan, Secretary Tillerson then proceeded to New Delhi on October 25, 2017 where he met the Indian leadership including PM 38 Narendra Modi and India’s External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj. During his discussion with Swaraj, Secretary Tillerson criticised Pakistan and said that the US was concerned that extremist groups “left unchecked in Pakistan” posed a “threat to the stability and security” of the Pakistan government. In a separate development on October 23, 2017, Tillerson said the US had made “some very specific requests” for action by Pakistan against the Taliban and other terror groups. He warned that the US’ ties with Pakistan would be condition-based. Tillerson’s remarks came during his two-hour visit to Afghanistan where he met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Both sides initially said that the meeting took place in Kabul, however, after discrepancies in similar photographs released by the US and the Afghan government, international press noted that the meeting was held at the US military base in Bagram and not Kabul. The controversy also evoked criticism from Pakistan. On October 25, 2017, Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif briefed the Senate about Tillerson’s visit. He said that the government had made it clear to the US that Pakistan could not be blamed for the US failure in Afghanistan and that countries including China, Turkey and Iran should be included in the Afghan peace process. Meanwhile, on October 31, 2017, US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson informed the US Congress that the Pakistani government has expressed its willingness to act against terrorists if the US provides them with information. 

On October 19, CIA Director, Mike Pompeo said that the US-Canadian couple kidnapped by the militants in Afghanistan was held inside Pakistan for five years before being freed.

Pompeo’s remarks contradicted Pakistani claims that US citizen Caitlan Coleman and her family was rescued by Pakistani Security Forces shortly after entering Pakistan from Afghanistan on October 13, 2017. 

On October 17, DG Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Major General, Asif Ghafoor rejected reports of a US drone strike in Kurram Agency as “baseless” saying, “there has been no air violation by the US along Pak-Afghan border.”

The statement came after reports emerged on October 17, 2017, that several US drone strikes had targeted areas near the Pak-Afghan border and killed at least 31 people. Some reports also suggested that one of the drone strikes was carried out in Kurram Agency. Asif Ghafoor said the US and Afghan Security Forces were instead conducting joint operations in Khost and Paktika in Afghanistan, bordering the Kurram Agency. Meanwhile, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), an offshoot of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) confirmed that its Chief Umar Khalid Khorasani, along with his nine associates was killed in the latest US drone strikes in Afghanistan’s Paktia province. However, on October 26, 2017, Defence Secretary, Zamirul Hassan told the Senate Standing Committee on Defence that it could not be confirmed that Umar Khorasani had been killed in a US drone strike. Umar Khorasani was the mastermind of the Army Public School attack in Peshawar in 2014.

On October 13, a US interagency delegation, led by Lisa Curtis, the White House South Asia Affairs Adviser, visited Islamabad and held talks with Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua.

The US delegation also met with Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa. According to the US Embassy in Islamabad, the US officials expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s sacrifices in the fight against terrorism. The delegation also reiterated President Trumps’ position that Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with US efforts in the region, including the establishment of a stable, peaceful Afghanistan. The delegation also welcomed Army Chief General Bajwa’s recent initiative in leading an interagency team on a visit to Kabul to explore cooperation with Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said, “Both sides agreed to continue bilateral engagements at all levels.” The meetings would help reduce tensions between the two countries. Distrust in the US-Pak relations has increased after President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of providing refuge to terrorists despite taking billions of dollars in aid money from the US. In a separate development on October 3, 2017, US Defence Secretary, James Mattis said at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee that Washington would try “one more time” to work with Islamabad on Afghanistan but warned, “if our best efforts fail, the President is prepared to take whatever steps are necessary.”

According to CNN on October 13, an American woman, her Canadian husband and their three children were freed from captivity by Pakistani security forces, nearly five years after being taken hostage by the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan.

Pakistan Army said the operation took place in the FATA region after US intelligence agencies shared intelligence with Pakistan. Meanwhile, on October 14, 2017 US President Donald Trump in a tweet suggested to, “develop a much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders.” 

On October 9, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the days of Islamabad’s dependence on the United States to meet its military requirements have ended.

The Premier also added that Pakistan would reach out to others, if one source of military supplies dries up. He claimed that Pakistan’s military has not only major US weapons systems, but also Chinese and European systems. PM Abbasi said we have also inducted Russian attack helicopters into our military. The remarks follow repeated warnings from Washington to Islamabad that it may lose its status as a non-NATO ally of the US unless Pakistan does more to combat the Haqqani network. The Premier also warned the US that its desire to give India a broader role in Afghanistan would be detrimental. 

According to Dawn on October 7, US Defence Secretary, James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it too believes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes through a disputed territory.

This is originally an Indian claim which Islamabad says is meant to undermine the projects under CPEC that would link Gwadar to China’s Xinjiang region. Tillerson also said that the US opposed the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) policy in principle as there are many belts and many roads, and no one nation should put itself into a position of dictating One Belt, One Road. Mattis was referring to areas in the north of Pakistan which are claimed by India as being part of Jammu and Kashmir. In response, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman, Nafees Zakaria strongly rejected US objection saying, “CPEC is a development and connectivity project.” He reminded the US that instead of criticising the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), it should instead focus on human rights violations committed by Indian occupation forces in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). Zakaria also called for the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir. China’s Foreign Ministry also rejected US concerns on the OBOR.

On October 4, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif visited Washington and held talks with US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. Following the talks, Secretary Tillerson said the country’s relationship with Pakistan was “extraordinarily important”, and that the US would work hard “at all levels” to strengthen bilateral ties.

Tillerson also emphasised that Pakistan is “critical to the long-term stability of the South Asian region.” However, the Secretary of State expressed concern about the future of Pakistan’s government, stressing that the US wanted a stable government in Islamabad. His remarks regarding the stability of the Pakistani government were met with scepticism in Pakistan, but, Pakistan’s Foreign Office claimed that the statement was in the context of threats of terrorism in the region. On his part, Khawaja Asif told the US Secretary of State that Pakistan was winning its war against terrorism and informed Tillerson with regard to, “the strong public reaction in Pakistan to the pronouncement of US Administration’s South Asia policy based on inadequate recognition of Pakistan’s sterling contribution in the fight against terrorism”. Following the meeting, Asif also interacted with the media in Washington where he made it clear that Islamabad, “seeks recognition of its legitimate security concerns in the region,” and that Pakistan remains, “genuinely concerned” over Indian role in the new US policy on Afghanistan. On October 6, 2017, the Pakistani Foreign Minister also met US National Security Adviser, H. R. McMaster and discussed with him the regional situation particularly in Afghanistan. This was the first high-level meeting between the two countries after Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi met the US Vice-President in New York, in September, 2017. The talks follow deteriorating relations between the US and Pakistan after Washington accused Islamabad of harbouring militants in the country. In a separate development on October 9, 2017, Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif said during a televised interview that Pakistan has offered the US a joint operation against the Haqqani network. However, Pakistan’s Army rejected such assertion saying, “There is no question of it”. 

Citing the new book by a former US Senator, Larry Pressler, Dawn reported on October 4 that the lobbying firm that campaigned to get F-16 fighter jets for Pakistan in 2016 also advocated for India to block the proposed sale.

The book titled “Neighbours in Arms” details the arms race between India and Pakistan and claims that Lockheed Martin had hired a Washington firm, the Podesta Group, to lobby for defence and aerospace sales to various potential buyers, including Pakistan. Pressler noted in his book that the Indian Embassy in Washington used lobbyists to block the sale of F-16s to Pakistan. Pressler also wrote that the power and pressure of the Indian Embassy’s lobbying firm produced results and a week after the State Department’s announcement of the planned subsidised F-16 sale to Pakistan, Republican Senator Rand Paul introduced a joint resolution to halt the sale. 

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On September 26, US Secretary of Defence, James Mattis visited India and met his Indian counterpart, Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi.

Addressing a press conference after meeting with Secretary Mattis, Sitharaman said that India would not deploy its troops in Afghanistan. Sitharam, however, stressed that India was prepared to increase training for Afghan security forces and boost help for infrastructure projects. Both sides also discussed the need to combat terrorism with Sitharaman urging Mattis to raise the issues of alleged safe havens for terrorists in Pakistan with Islamabad. Sitharaman also said that Secretary Mattis has assured her that he will raise with Pakistan the issue of terrorism emanating from there, adding that there can be “no tolerance to terrorists’ safe havens”. Mattis’ visit to Delhi comes after the US had asked Delhi to boost its role in Afghanistan. There have been unverified reports in the international and Indian media about India deploying troops in Afghanistan after US President Donald Trump called for greater Indian involvement in the country. However, reports in the Pakistani media claimed that there is no pressure on Delhi from the US or Afghanistan to send troops to Kabul as both sides are aware of the logistical challenges. Whilst India competes with arch-rival Pakistan for influence in Afghanistan, Pakistan has made it clear that India had “a zero political or military role in Afghanistan.”

Speaking at the Asia Society forum on September 25, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif asked the US not to blame Pakistan for the Haqqani network and other 32 terrorist groups.

He reminded the US that these terrorists were considered as “darlings” by the White House up until a few years ago. Khawaja Asif said, “the Haqqanis, Hafiz Saeed and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) are liabilities,” and asked for more time to eliminate them saying “we don’t have the assets to match these liabilities.” Asif further stressed that there was no military solution to the Afghan conflict. In a related development on September 28, 2017, the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs criticised the Foreign Minister’s remarks during a media interaction in the US in which he suggested that Pakistan, “must put its house in order.” His statement drew immense condemnation from the opposition leaders who blamed him for undermining Pakistan’s security. 

On September 19, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi met US Vice President Mike Pence on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The two leaders agreed that their countries would remain engaged constructively to achieve the shared objectives of peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region. Following the meeting, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua said that the meeting had helped end the stalemate between the two countries. She also said the Prime Minister apprised the US Vice President about decisions taken by the Pakistan’s National Security Committee following President Trump’s policy statement on Afghanistan and South Asia. According to media reports, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said in his message that Pakistan is part of international efforts against terrorism and has suffered huge losses in this war. Meanwhile, speaking at Washington’s Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) on September 20, 2017, Prime Minister Abbasi demanded the implementation of the UN Security Council resolution on Kashmir, asserting that his country would continue to support the right of self-determination in the state. The PM also said that Pakistan does not have any “fielded tactical nuclear weapons” and warned that Pakistan has developed short-range nuclear weapons in response to India’s Cold Start Doctrine. He further made it clear that India has “zero” political or military role in Afghanistan.

On September 15, a US drone killed three suspected militants in an attack on a compound in Kurram Agency.

This is the first US drone strike inside Pakistan since President Donald Trump outlined his new Afghan strategy and accused Islamabad of harbouring terrorists. The development could further raise tensions between Islamabad and Washington. In June, 2017, after a US drone strike in Hangu, Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa warned the US that such actions are against the ongoing cooperation. 

According to Dawn on September 9, US lawmaker, Brad Sherman told a House Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs that the US needs to condition its aid to Afghanistan on the recognition of the Durand Line as Kabul’s refusal to recognise it unsettles Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Alice Wells reminded Pakistan that India’s interests in Afghanistan were as “real and legitimate as Pakistan’s”. Pakistan cites India’s growing involvement in Afghanistan as a primary cause of regional instability and accuses India of supporting anti-Pakistan militant groups, who use Afghan territory to launch attacks inside Pakistan. 

According to The Nation on September 8, the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) said it had fined Pakistan’s Habib Bank and its New York branch $225 million for failures to comply with laws and regulations designed to combat illicit money transactions.

The bank was also ordered to surrender its licence to operate in New York. Earlier in August 2017, the regulator announced that it was seeking to fine HBL up to $630 million for “grave” compliance failures relating to anti-money laundering and sanctions rules at its only US branch. 32 The development follows a 2016 review during which DFS said it found “weaknesses in the bank’s risk management and compliance” which bank management had failed to address. 

According to Dawn on September 1, the Trump Administration notified Congress that it was putting $255 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to Pakistan into the equivalent of an escrow account that Islamabad can only access if it does more against terror groups based in the tribal areas and stops cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.

The State Department stressed that the US would allow it to review the level of its cooperation with Islamabad before making new commitments. The FMF provides grants and loans to help countries purchase US weapons and defence equipment and for acquiring defence services and military training in the US. 

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Quoting the United States Embassy spokesperson, Richard Snesire on August 28, The Nation reported that Pakistan postponed the official visit of Alice Wells, the US Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia to Islamabad.

According to media reports, Alice Wells was scheduled to visit Islamabad on August 28, 2017 for a meeting with the country’s civilian and military leadership. However, the visit was postponed on the request of the government of Pakistan following President Trump’s speech in which he outlined new US policy for Afghanistan and South Asia and accused Pakistan of harbouring terrorists. Pakistan strongly rejected allegations that there were sanctuaries for terrorists in Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif, who was due to visit the US for bilateral talks with his counterpart Rex Tillerson, also delayed his visit to the US. It was decided at a meeting of the National Security Committee on August 24, 2017, that Foreign Minister, Asif would now visit China, Russia and Turkey to discuss the new US policy for Afghanistan and South Asia. Quoting the Foreign Minister, media reports said that Pakistan is set to reach out to China, Russia and other countries of the region to get a “regional consensus and a solution” on Afghanistan. On August 28, 2017, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua held a meeting with China’s special envoy on Afghan affairs and discussed the Afghan crisis. There is now increased frustration in Pakistan over the Trump Administration’s repeated accusations against Pakistan. · According to The News on August 30, Former President, Pervez Musharraf claimed that George Tenet, former director of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), showed him photographic evidence of Pakistani nuclear scientist, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan’s involvement in the proliferation of nuclear material outside Pakistan. Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan rejected the claims made by former President Musharraf and called him a “liar and traitor”. In 2004, US intelligence reports suggested that an underground network of 30 suppliers of nuclear technology led by Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, shared equipment with Iran, North Korea and Libya. The Pakistani government denied it authorised any transfers of weapons technology, but said individuals may have done so for their own profit. The proliferation issue is being raised at a time when North Korea’s nuclear threat has intensified. 

On August 21, US President Donald Trump announced his new strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia and accused Pakistan of harbouring “safe havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.” President Trump also called for “more” support from India in Afghanistan.

On August 26, General John Nicholson, the NATO commander in Afghanistan, claimed that the US was aware of Afghan Taliban leadership’s presence in Peshawar and Quetta, and warned that the military would continue to put pressure on Taliban sanctuaries inside and outside Afghanistan.

On August 24, Pakistan’s National Security Committee (NSC) “out rightly rejected US President Donald Trump’s allegations and insinuations made against Pakistan.” According to the NSC, scapegoating Pakistan would not help stabilise Afghanistan. The NSC instead called on the US to carry out “effective and immediate military efforts” to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries, specifically in eastern Afghanistan which are responsible for fomenting terrorism in Pakistan.

On August 30, the National Assembly of Pakistan passed a unanimous resolution rejecting “hostile” remarks against Pakistan made by US President and top US commander in Afghanistan. The resolution called on the government to consider suspending supply lines to the US-led NATO mission in neighbouring Afghanistan.

It also condemned the Trump Administration’s efforts to provide more space to India in Afghanistan and termed it, “highly detrimental to regional stability.” The resolution also rejected the US claims of giving Pakistan billions of dollars in aid, noting that Pakistan’s economy has suffered a loss of more than $ 123 billion in the war against terrorism. A large part of President Trump’s speech in which he outlined his new South Asia strategy was focused on Pakistan. He accused Pakistan of receiving billions of dollars in US aid even as it continues to house the terrorists that the US is fighting against. In a direct reference to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, President Trump said, “We must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against the US.” He also called on Pakistan’s arch enemy India to “help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistant and development.” Pakistan’s National Security Committee completely rejected the proposition that India could play a constructive role in Afghanistan and made it clear that India cannot be a “net security provider in the South Asia region when it has conflictual relationships with all its neighbours and is pursuing a policy of destabilising Pakistan.” Policy makers in Pakistan have suggested that continuous efforts by the US to push India to play a broader role inside Afghanistan could imply an end to the Washington-Islamabad  cooperation in Afghanistan. President Trump has jeopardised US-Pak relations and there is now increasing rhetoric in Pakistan to choke the NATO supply route into Afghanistan. Reinforcing US President Donald Trump’s warning, US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson also warned Pakistan on August 22, 2017, that the US could end its status as a major non-NATO ally if Islamabad fails to crack down on the Taliban and other extremist groups. However, he also called on India to “take some steps of rapprochement” for improving ties with Pakistan. President Trump’s allegations against Pakistan drew immediate response from Beijing where Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying said that Pakistan was on the front line in the struggle against terrorism and had made “great sacrifices” and “important contributions” in the fight. She also called on the international community to recognise Pakistan’s anti-terrorism efforts. On Afghanistan, Trump warned there would be no “blank check” for American engagement in the country and pledged to end a strategy of “nation-building” and instead pursue a policy aimed at killing terrorists. He signalled the US would increase troop levels in Afghanistan, but offered no indication of how many more US soldiers would be deployed. Meanwhile, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov termed the new US strategy for Afghanistan “a dead end.” 

During his visit to Pakistan on August 18, US Central Command Chief, General Joseph Votel, held talks with Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership and emphasised the need for the two countries to work together to ensure “greater regional security and stability.” 

Following the meeting between General Votel and Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Pakistan Army reaffirmed its commitment to cooperating with US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan and the Afghan Security Forces for peace in the region. According to a statement issued by the US Embassy on August 19, 2017, the general said, “Military cooperation, and even stronger cooperation with Pakistan, is very important.” General Votel also visited North Waziristan, where he was briefed about the Army’s operations in the region and Pak-Afghan border security mechanism through enhanced surveillance measures. General Votel’s visit to Pakistan comes at a time when the Trump Administration is set to announce its new war strategy in Afghanistan. 

On August 16, the United States designated Hizbul Mujahideen as a terrorist organisation led by an internationally recognised terrorist. 

In a related development on August 17, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman, Nafees Zakaria said the designation of Kashmiri group Hizbul Mujahideen as a terrorist organisation is “completely unjustified.” Zakaria reiterated Pakistan’s “moral, diplomatic and political support to Kashmiri people’s struggle” and said the US decision did not take into account “the 70-year struggle of Kashmiris.” He said it is India which is responsible for human rights violations in Kashmir and stressed that the primary issue in Pakistan-India relations is that of Kashmir “which has to be resolved through dialogue”. Hizbul Mujahideen, formed in 1989, is an indigenous Kashmiri group fighting in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), against Indian rule. 

On August 16, US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson alleged that religious freedom was under attack in Pakistan, where more than two dozen people were on death row or serving life imprisonment for blasphemy.

Announcing the contents of the 2016 US report on religious freedom, Tillerson said that he hoped the new PM of Pakistan, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, would take action to reduce the imminent threat to the ostracised Ahmadiya community which is denied status of ‘Muslim’ under the country’s 33 laws. He also urged the PM to take steps to protect other religious minorities. The report also mentioned the attacks on Muslims by cow vigilantes in India, the human rights violations by USA’s Gulf ally, Saudi Arabia and also condemned Israel’s recent actions in Jerusalem.

Citing a Foreign Office official on August 12, Dawn reported that the disclosure made by former President General (retired) Pervez Musharraf in his 2006 autobiography that Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan transferred sensitive nuclear material to North Korea was a big embarrassment for the country.

The statement came during a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The official said that that the response was viewed internationally with scepticism and disbelief. In 2004, US intelligence reports suggested that an underground network of suppliers of nuclear technology led by Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, shared equipment with Iran, North Korea and Libya. The Pakistani government denied it authorised any transfers of weapons technology, but said, individuals may have done so for their own profit. In February, 2004, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan admitted to his role in leaking nuclear weapons secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea. However, President Pervez Musharraf pardoned Khan for his involvement in nuclear proliferation. 

According to Dawn on August 5, US National Security Adviser, General H R McMaster said that President Donald Trump wants Pakistan to change its ‘paradoxical’ policy of supporting the militants who are causing the country great losses.

General McMaster also defended President Donald Trump’s military strategy in Afghanistan, after the President said the US is “losing” in the country. He said that the President wants “to see a change in behaviour of those in the region,” who are, “supporting the Taliban, Haqqani Network and others.” In recent years, the fighting between the Taliban and government forces has intensified. The Trump Administration is finding it difficult to agree on a strategy to counter the worsening Afghan crisis. However, it is considering a tougher line towards Pakistan for its inaction against the Haqqani network. Analysts say the distrust between the US and Pakistan will deepen more as the former continues to blame the latter for the situation in Afghanistan. Meanwhile on August 10, 2017, Senator John McCain, the Chairman of the Senate Armed 30 Services Committee, unveiled his own strategy for the US in Afghanistan. McCain’s Afghan Strategy includes adding more US troops for counter terrorism missions and increasing US airpower to aid Afghan forces. McCain’s Afghan strategy threatens Pakistan with new sanctions, but at the same time calls for a long-term US-Pakistan strategic partnership that could result from Pakistan’s cessation of support for all terrorist and insurgent groups. 

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According to the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), on 24th July 2017, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa met General John Nicholson, Commander, Resolute Support Mission (RSM) and US Forces in Afghanistan, at the General Headquarters (GHQ), in Rawalpindi.

During the meeting, Pakistan’s military chief raised concerns over a “blame game perpetrated by some quarters in Afghanistan and US to undermine Pakistan’s contributions” in the war against terrorism. General Bajwa, however, told General Nicholson that Pakistan would continue to contribute positively despite these provocations. The two sides also agreed on the need for continuous engagement and coordination for regional peace. Meanwhile, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford said, “We cannot be successful in Afghanistan unless we have a higher degree of cooperation from Pakistan.” He was speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in California on 23rd July 2017. According to the State Department, US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson has called for a dialogue between the Taliban and the Afghan government. 

According to the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), on 24th July 2017, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa met General John Nicholson, Commander, Resolute Support Mission (RSM) and US Forces in Afghanistan, at the General Headquarters (GHQ), in Rawalpindi.

During the meeting, Pakistan’s military chief raised concerns over a “blame game perpetrated by some quarters in Afghanistan and US to undermine Pakistan’s contributions” in the war against terrorism. General Bajwa, however, told General Nicholson that Pakistan would continue to contribute positively despite these provocations. The two sides also agreed on the need for continuous engagement and coordination for regional peace. Meanwhile, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford said, “We cannot be successful in Afghanistan unless we have a higher degree of cooperation from Pakistan.” He was speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in California on 23rd July 2017. According to the State Department, US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson has called for a dialogue between the Taliban and the Afghan government. 

According to the Pentagon, on 21st July 2017, the US withheld $50 million in military reimbursements to Pakistan for fiscal year 2016 after US Secretary of Defence, James Mattis told Congress that Pakistan had not taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network.

This is the second time these funds have been withheld from Pakistan. In 2016, the Pentagon withheld $300 million in reimbursements. The decision came as the Trump Administration seeks 30 to toughen its policy toward Pakistan for countering the Haqqani network. Moreover, Dawn reported on 31st July 2017, that Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has moved a legislative amendment in the US Senate which calls for “imposing graduated diplomatic, military and economic costs on Pakistan as long as it continues to provide support and sanctuary to terrorist and insurgent groups, including the Taliban and the Haqqani network”.  


Dawn reported on July 15 that the US House of Representatives passed a $696 billion defence policy bill that includes provisions for increased restrictions on US assistance to Pakistan.

The 2018 National Defence Authorisation Act, was passed by 344 to 81 votes. Earlier on July 14, 2017, Dawn reported that another Congressional panel passed the State and Foreign Operations Bill that also proposed increased restrictions on US civil and military assistance to Pakistan. The bill stipulated that none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act for assistance to the Pakistani government may be made available unless the Secretary of State certifies that Pakistan is taking action against terrorist groups, including Afghan Taliban. 

On July 6, United Nations Security Council (UNSC) designated Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), a splinter group of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), as a terrorist group.

JuA is based in Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan and is responsible for carrying out series of bombings across Pakistan including the November 2014 suicide bombing at Wahgah border, which killed 60 people. The group is also responsible for March 2015 Easter bombing in children’s park in Lahore, killing 72 people, and a bombing in Quetta hospital in August 2016, that killed at least 70 people, mostly lawyers. Pakistan’s Foreign Office welcomed the inclusion of the JuA on the UNSC sanctions list. 

Dawn reported on July 4 that a US drone fired two missiles at a vehicle carrying Commander Pir Agha of the Daesh militant group and his three associates in FATA killing all four men.

Earlier on June 13, 2017, a US drone strike in Hangu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reportedly killed a Haqqani network commander, Abubakar and one of his associates. Pakistan immediately condemned the attack. Earlier in June 2017, Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa said, “Unilateral actions like drone strikes were counterproductive.” He called on the US to share “actionable intelligence” with Pakistan saying the army was capable of taking “effective measures” against the militants.

On July 3, a US Congressional delegation led by Senator John McCain, Chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, visited Pakistan and met Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser, Sartaj Aziz and Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Senator John McCain and General Bajwa also visited Pakistan’s military base in South Waziristan where Senator McCain said the cooperation between the two countries was “vital for regional security.” According to Pakistani state media, Senator McCain said that there could be no peace in Afghanistan without Pakistan’s help. During his meeting with senior Pakistani officials, John McCain said that both India and Pakistan should resolve the Kashmir issue through negotiations and added that the US wants an end to violence in Kashmir. He said the US will continue its policy regarding the Kashmir issue and no change has been made in this regard. On July 4, 2017 McCain visited Afghanistan and stressed that the US expects Pakistan to cooperate with Washington, particularly against the Haqqani network. He warned, “If they don’t change their behaviour, maybe we should change our behaviour towards Pakistan as a nation.” Senator McCain’s visit came ahead of a review from the US of its Afghan war strategy. The visit is also significant as distrust between the US and Pakistan deepens on the Afghan crisis. According to Dawn on July 8, 2017, Pakistani Ambassador in the US, Aizaz Chaudhary said that trust between Pakistan and the US is important for promoting peace in the region.

According to Dawn on July 1, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed disappointment over the “complete silence” in a US-India joint statement on the atrocities being committed by Indian forces in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).

On June 26, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi visited Washington and met US President Donald Trump. The Indo-US joint statement that was issued after the meeting called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory was not being used for terrorist attacks on other countries. It also called on Pakistan to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai and Pathankot attacks. However, the joint statement did not mention the Kashmir issue prompting strong criticism of the Trump Administration in Pakistan. Earlier on June 26, 2017, the US State Department also declared Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin a “specially designated global terrorist” alleging that under Salahuddin’s tenure as senior Hizbul Mujahideen leader, the group had claimed responsibility for several attacks. India welcomed the designation, saying it “vindicated” its long-standing position that cross-border terrorism perpetrated from outfits based in Pakistan was behind disturbances in Kashmir. Pakistan maintains that it would continue to support the Kashmiris struggle for the right to self-determination and for a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute as per the UNSC resolutions. Islamabad warned that, “Any attempt to equate the Kashmiri struggle with terrorism, and to designate individuals supporting the right to self-determination as terrorists is unacceptable.” 

On July 1, the US State Department said that the designation of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin as a global terrorist does not reflect a change in the US policy on Kashmir.     

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During his visit to Washington on June 26, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi met US President Donald Trump. Following the meeting, the Indo-US joint statement, titled ‘Prosperity Through Partnership’ was issued in which “the two leaders called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries.

They further called on Pakistan to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai, Pathankot, and other cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistanbased groups.” The Indo-US joint statement also reiterated the growing strategic partnership between the two countries, particularly maritime collaboration. The US also authorised the sale of 22 Predator Guardian drones to India. The deal is estimated to be worth about $2 billion. Moreover, the US also renewed its support for India’s candidature for Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and UN Security Council (UNSC). Ahead of the meeting between the two leaders, the US designated Syed Salahuddin, head of Hizbul Mujahideen, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist prompting protests in the Kashmir region. The joint statement drew strong response from Pakistan’s Foreign Office which stressed, “Any attempt to equate the Kashmiri struggle with terrorism, and to designate individuals supporting the right to self-determination as terrorists is unacceptable.” The Foreign Office also said the Indo-US joint statement would “not help in achieving the objective of strategic stability” in South Asia. Pakistan also expressed “deep concern” on the sale of advanced military technologies to India warning that it would create military imbalances in the region. However, the US insists the deal does not threaten Pakistan’s security. After the Trump-Modi meeting, many in Pakistan suggested that the Indo-US joint statement “speaks India’s language” while Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar reiterated Pakistan’s support for the “Kashmir freedom” struggle. Distrust has long dominated US-Pak relations, particularly on the Afghanistan crisis. The growing US focus on military cooperation with India has further complicated its relations with Pakistan. There are now growing voices on both sides to review bilateral relations.

According to Dawn on June 24, US Congressmen Ted Poe and Rick Nolan introduced a bipartisan bill in Congress, seeking to revoke Pakistan’s status as a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA). Congressman Ted Poe, a Republican and chairman of the subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation and trade said, “Pakistan must be held accountable for the American blood on its hands.”

Congressman Nolan, a Democrat, said, “Time and time again, Pakistan has taken advantage of America’s goodwill and demonstrated that they are no friend and ally of the United States.” The MNNA status was granted to Pakistan in 2004 by former US President George Bush which enables delivery of defence materials and a US loan guarantee programme to a nonNATO ally. 

According to the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), on June 14, Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa said during his visit to Peshawar Corps Headquarters that “Unilateral actions like drone strikes were counterproductive and against the spirit of ongoing cooperation and intelligence sharing being diligently undertaken by Pakistan.”

General Bajwa’s comments came in response to the June 13, 2017 US drone strike in Hangu in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. According to media reports, the drone strike killed a Haqqani network commander, Abubakar and one of his associates. General Bajwa also called on the US to share “actionable intelligence” with Pakistan saying the army was capable of taking “effective measures” against the militants. US drone strikes could increase tensions between Islamabad and Washington as Pakistan terms such actions as being against the country’s sovereignty. 

Citing US State Department spokesperson, Heather Nauert on June 17, The Nation reported that the US has started an interagency review of its Pakistan’s policy.

Heather Nauert said it was part of an ongoing broader review of the US national strategy for South Asia, which includes Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries. She emphasised that the United States and Pakistan have a close partnership on regional peace, security, prosperity, and stability. Earlier on June 14, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced during a Congressional hearing to begin an inter-agency policy review towards Pakistan which would also review the continuation of US aid to Pakistan. Recent media reports have claimed that the Trump Administration was considering a tougher line towards Pakistan for its inaction against the Haqqani network. Earlier on June 22, 2017, Pakistan’s Foreign Office called for continued cooperation between the US and Pakistan for bringing peace to the region. 

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According to Dawn on May 30, the US State Department’s budget proposals for fiscal year 2018 indicated a major cut in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funds for Pakistan.

The amount was reduced from $255m in 2017 to $100m in 2018. The current 2017 fiscal ends on September 30, 2017. The State Department has kept its options open about whether it would be a grant or a loan. Earlier media reports indicated that the Trump Administration has proposed in its annual budget to the Congress for converting the US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Pakistan into a loan guarantee. The budget proposals, in May, 2017 include $800m of reimbursements to 33 Pakistan for its military and logistical support to coalition forces in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, $200 million has been proposed for the Economic Support and Development Fund in Pakistan.

Dawn reported on May 29 that the US intelligence community has informed the Congress that Islamabad does not want Indian influence in Afghanistan and may turn to China to balance New Delhi’s influence on its western borders.

The development follows a hearing on Afghanistan at the Senate Armed Services Committee where US intelligence chiefs assessed the situation in Afghanistan. Dan Coats, US National Intelligence Director said, “Pakistan is concerned about international isolation and sees its position through the prism of India’s rising international status.” He added that Pakistan is also wary of India’s deepening ties to the US. He alleged that Islamabad’s failure to curb terrorists in Pakistan “present a sustained threat to the US interests in the region and these groups continue to plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan”. Earlier in May 2017, US Republican Congressman, Adam Kinzinger, suggested carrying out air strikes on alleged terrorist targets in Pakistan. Pakistan maintains it cannot be held responsible for the situation in Afghanistan. In January 2017, Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser, Sartaj Aziz said that a lack of political consensus about how to deal with the Taliban has marred efforts to initiate peace talks between warring Afghan factions. On May 22, US Ambassador David Hale also met Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa and expressed the hope that Pakistan would not allow terrorists to use its soil against any other country.

According to Dawn on May 14, the US Department of the Treasury imposed new sanctions on Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jamaatul Dawa al-Quran (JDQ) to disrupt their leadership and financial networks.

The announcement follows a US intelligence officials report to Congress on May 13, 2017 which said that Pakistan-based terrorist groups are still allegedly launching attacks in India and Afghanistan and are likely to continue their activities in future as well.

On May 5, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Aizaz Chaudhry, met with US National Security Adviser (NSA) H R McMaster at the White House and reaffirmed “Pakistan’s commitment to regional peace.”

Ambassador Chaudhry said that Pakistan is ready to cooperate with the US for regional peace and stability. Following a meeting between NSA McMaster and Ambassador Chaudhry the US Embassy in Islamabad stated that the US had stressed the need to confront terrorism in all its forms.

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During his visit to Washington on April 22, Pakistan’s Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar held talks with US National Security Advisor (NSA), HR McMaster at the White House and discussed various issues including “security, defence, regional issues, Pakistan-India relations, Kashmir and Afghanistan”.

Finance Minister Dar described the meeting as “very positive talks between two willing partners”, but said that there were “some irritants and stalemates” in the relationship. Meanwhile, the US side reiterated its support to strengthen Pakistan’s counter-terrorism capabilities. 

During his visit to Pakistan on April 17, US National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and assured him that the Trump Administration remains committed to strengthening bilateral relations with Pakistan.

During his visit, he urged Pakistan to fight all terrorist groups. McMaster visited Islamabad a day after holding talks with Afghan leaders in Kabul where he expressed hope that Pakistani leaders would “go after terrorist groups less selectively than they have in the past”. PM Nawaz Sharif, meanwhile, expressed his government’s willingness to engage with the US for achieving peace in Afghanistan. The Premier, however, conveyed Pakistan’s concerns about India and expressed hope that the US would play its part in reducing tensions between the two countries and helping resolve their differences particularly on Kashmir.  

According to The Nation on April 12, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed hope that the Trump Administration would help resolve the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India. The Premier said, “The US can play a very critical role, which it has not done.”

He added that the world, including the US, is aware of the danger the dispute poses to world peace. PM Sharif stressed that the UN Security Council must also ensure the implementation of its resolutions on Kashmir and criticised the UN for its failure to do so. On Pakistan-US relations, the premier expressed the hope that the ties between the two countries would improve under President Trump. 

Dawn reported on April 12 that the US Department of Defence had authorised the disbursement of $550 million to Pakistan in 2017 in recognition of the significant sacrifices the Pakistani military has made in the fight against terrorism.

This disbursement does not require a certification by the US Secretary of Defence confirming that Pakistan is taking action against the Haqqani network. Earlier in April 2016, the US Congress adopted the Defence Appropriation Bill for 2017, which also includes $900m for providing economic and military assistance to Pakistan. The remaining $350m is restricted by the Secretary of Defence’s certification of Pakistan’s actions against the Haqqani network. According to Adam Stump, a US Defence Department spokesman, the US Defence Secretary “has not yet made a decision on certification.” 

On April 3, US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley said that the Trump Administration would try and “find its place” to be a part of efforts to de-escalate tensions between India and Pakistan.

Haley also indicated that US President Donald Trump might also participate in the process. She said that the US policy has been to ensure de-escalation of tensions between Pakistan and India but the US never saw a role for itself in resolving issues between the two countries. She spoke of a more “proactive” US role in the wake of escalating tensions between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India. Following Haley’s remarks, Pakistan’s envoy in Washington, Aizaz Chaudhry welcomed the suggestion saying “Any positive role that the US plays to bring peace and stability in South Asia can serve the region well.” Meanwhile, Gopal Baglay, India’s spokesman for Ministry of External Affairs, dismissed Ambassador Haley’s idea of Washington’s more proactive role in resolving the issues between India and Pakistan and insisted that India’s position for “bilateral redressal of all India-Pakistan issues in an environment free of terror and violence hasn’t changed”. It is important to note that New Delhi has long been opposed to any third-party intervention in resolving the unsettled issues between India and Pakistan. 

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According to Dawn on March 26, US Secretary of Defence, Jim Mattis said that by killing a Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorist in Afghanistan, the US has sent a clear message to the extremists that those who kill innocent people cannot escape justice.

Earlier on March 25, 2017, the US Department of Defence confirmed that a US drone had killed TTP leader Qari Yasin in Afghanistan. Yasin is believed to be responsible for a 2009 attack on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore and the September 20, 2008, bombing at the Marriott hotel in Islamabad.

On March 21, Foreign Affairs Adviser, Sartaj Aziz said that the Pakistan’s People Party (PPP) had formally empowered former Ambassador Hussain Haqqani to directly issue visas to Americans entering the country during the time it was in power.

Meanwhile, a letter sent by Prime Minister’s House to the Foreign Office in 2010 also surfaced in the media. The letter suggested that former prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani had empowered Hussain Haqqani, the former ambassador of Pakistan in Washington, to directly issue visas to Americans without clearance from relevant authorities. The latest controversy follows Haqqani’s disclosure that he had assisted the US in “stationing US Special Operations and intelligence personnel on the ground in Pakistan.” In a Washington Post op-ed on March 10, 2017, Haqqani wrote that the decision was taken “without the knowledge of Pakistan’s army” and was authorised by the then civilian government headed by former President Asif Ali Zardari.

According to Radio Pakistan on March 15, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Aizaz Chaudhry expressed hope that US President Trump and his Administration will engage positively with Pakistan.

Ambassador Chaudhry said that Pakistan and the US have been partners for the last seven decades and highlighted that both the countries have cooperated in fighting terrorism. The Ambassador also noted that the two countries could work together to stabilise Afghanistan. 

Writing for the Washington Post on March 10, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani claimed that his “connections with the Obama Administration enabled the US to discover and eliminate Osama bin Laden without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military which were suspected of sympathy toward Islamist militants”.

Ambassador Haqqani also disclosed that he had assisted the US in “stationing US Special Operations and intelligence personnel on the ground in Pakistan.” He wrote that the decision was taken “without the knowledge of Pakistan’s army” and was authorised by the then civilian government headed by former President Asif Ali Zardari. Haqqani also revealed that he was forced to resign as ambassador after “Pakistan’s military-intelligence apparatus gained the 30 upper hand in the country’s perennial power struggle”. Ambassador Haqqani served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US from 2008 to 2011. He was forced to resign after accusations of orchestrating a secret memo on behalf of former President Asif Zardari to Mike Mullen, former US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and sought for American help to avoid a possible military-led coup in Pakistan. However, following accusations, ambassador Haqqani had said he was not involved in writing or delivering of the memo. The latest claims by the former ambassador have once again prompted concerns in the country with opposition parties questioning whether former President Zardari had authorised the memo. 

During a testimony before the US Senate Armed Services Committee on March 9, General Joseph Votel, Commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) warned that conventional conflict between Pakistan and India could escalate into a nuclear confrontation adding that “India’s public policy to ‘diplomatically isolate’ Pakistan hinders any prospects for improved relations.”

General Votel also emphasised that tensions between Pakistan and India may continue as New Delhi remains “concerned about the lack of action against India-focused militants based in Pakistan.” The CENTCOM commander also claimed that 20 terrorist organisations operate at the Pak-Afghan border. Votel added that seven of these 20 organisations have their sanctuaries in Pakistan. General Votel also said that Pakistan’s increased focus on its eastern border with India “detracts Pakistan’s efforts to secure its western border with Afghanistan.” He, however, maintained that the Pak-US relationship “remains a very important one.” The deteriorating relations between Pakistan and India have raised concerns of an all-out conflict between the two nuclear armed countries. Earlier in January 2017, former US Vice President, Joe Biden had warned that nuclear weapons could be used in a regional conflict in South Asia. 

On March 8, US Congressman Ted Poe and James Clad, a former Pentagon official urged the Trump Administration to stop treating Pakistan as an ally. Poe and Clad argued in an article for National Interest Magazine, that for decades, the US had “acquiesced in a toxic relationship” with Pakistan.

The two also called Pakistan “a quasiadversary,” receiving hundreds of billions of dollars through the years in direct and indirect US support. Ted Poe has repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting terrorism. In September 2016, Congressmen Poe introduced the Pakistan State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Act in US Congress calling Pakistan “an untrustworthy ally.” In June, 2016 Congressman, Poe moved an amendment in the House to cut the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) for Pakistan from $900 million to $700m. The amendment was defeated. 

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Dawn reported on February 10 citing White House officials that President Trump’s Administration has no plan to ban Pakistani citizens from travelling to the United States because Pakistan is providing the data required to vet a visitor.

The US, however, refused to issue a visa for Ghafoor Hyderi, the Deputy Chairman of Pakistan’s Senate, who was to lead a two-member delegation in an UN-sponsored Inter-Parliamentary Union conference scheduled to be held in New York on February 13 and 14, 2017. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on January 27, 2017, banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. While Pakistan’s name was not mentioned in the list, there have been concerns that the country might be added in the next ban list.

According to Dawn on February 7, a report by various US think tanks and universities noted that designating Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism is unwise in the first year of a new administration, but should be kept as an option for the longer term.

The report also advised the Trump Administration to “state up front that it intends to review the intelligence on Pakistani involvement in supporting terror much more critically than its predecessors.” The report urges the Trump Administration to “avoid viewing and portraying Pakistan as an ally and to deal with it as a non-ally, which has engaged in supporting the Afghan Taliban.” · During a telephonic conversation between Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa and US Defence Secretary James Mattis on February 9, the two sides reaffirmed their commitment toward the mutual goal of bringing peace to the region and discussed measures aimed at achieving that goal. The two sides also underlined the need for continued engagement at multiple levels between the two countries. Secretary Mattis also appreciated the role the Pakistan Army has played in combating terrorism.

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During a televised interview on January 25, US President Donald Trump said that Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia are not among the countries that will face a visa ban to enter the US, however, he added that the citizens of these countries would face “extreme vetting.”

The US President signed an executive order on January 27, 2017 for temporarily banning citizens from seven Muslims countries including Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Iran, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the US. On January 29, US President Trump’s Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus said that the restrictions could be extended to Pakistan, saying “Maybe we can expand the programme.” Trump said his plan to limit the entry of people from several Muslim countries was necessary because the world is “a total mess”. According to media reports, President Trump’s Administration might establish a registry for collecting information about Muslims living in the US. 

Radio Pakistan citing Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Jalil Abbas Jillani reported on January 20 that the US President-elect Donald Trump has expressed hope that bilateral ties between the US and Pakistan would improve in the future.

Jillani said that Trump expressed these views during a brief conversation with him at a dinner he hosted for foreign ambassadors. The Envoy added that the US President ‘pleasantly referred to the telephonic conversation he had with PM Sharif and expressed good wishes for the country.’

On January 18, former US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter revealed that Pakistan did not know about the presence of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

He said that the killing of Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan had further deepened mistrust between the two countries. The former envoy also stressed that the November 2011 Salala post attack in which two dozen Pakistani soldiers were killed made matters even worse. He also recalled that it took the US seven months to apologise for the attack. 

On January 14, US Vice President Joe Biden warned that nuclear weapons in South Asia could be used in a regional conflict.

The outgoing US Vice President also said that Pakistan, along with Russia, North Korea and others is making “counterproductive moves” that exacerbate the threat of use of nuclear weapons in a regional conflict. He said that the Trump Administration would have to deal with these dangers. Strategic analysts also argue that escalating tensions between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India have increased the nuclear threat in the region. Washington has repeatedly raised its concerns with Pakistan on the development of its Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNW). Though Islamabad dismisses such concerns as misplaced and has warned that the world could not ignore India’s unprecedented arms build-up and remains firm in its position that it will not accept one-sided restrictions on its nuclear programme. Officials in Islamabad also maintain that the US-India nuclear deal has allowed New Delhi to increase its fissile material and has disturbed the strategic balance in South Asia. They stressed that Pakistan would “take whatever measures are necessary to maintain credible deterrence”. Earlier, in June 2016, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs, said that the US has been told clearly that there will be no compromise on Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

On January 13, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Nafees Zakaria strongly rejected US allegations of the existence of terrorist safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and recalled that Pakistan has lost thousands of its citizens and suffered economic losses of over $100 billion due to terrorism.

Earlier on January 10, US State Department spokesman, Mark Toner accused Pakistan of providing safe havens to terrorists in FATA. Toner also said that the terrain and the military’s tactical limitations prevent Islamabad from eliminating all terrorist safe havens. The allegations were made immediately after an Afghan government spokesman said that the terrorists target Afghanistan because Pakistan allows them to maintain safe havens in FATA. Afghanistan’s accusations follows a series of suicide bombings in Afghanistan on January 10, 2017. A demonstration was also held outside the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul to protest against Islamabad’s alleged ‘support for terrorist groups’. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, reacting to the accusations, stressed that Pakistan does not allow its territory to be used for attacks against any other country and noted that Afghanistan was infested with many terrorist organisations due to instability in the country. The spokesperson also expressed “deep concerns” over the nexus between Indian RAW and Afghanistan’s NDS and added “some foreign elements are exploiting the situation and using Afghan soil against Pakistan.” Afghan and the US officials continue to blame Pakistan as the security situation worsens in Afghanistan with stepped up insurgent attacks across the country. Pakistan insists that it is making serious efforts for bringing peace in Afghanistan and cannot be blamed for the violence. · During his visit to Pakistan on January 9, General John Nicholson, Commander of the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) and US forces in Afghanistan met with Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa. During the meeting, the two sides discussed border security mechanisms and the security situation in Afghanistan. General Bajwa appreciated the role of the RSM forces for maintaining peace and stability in Afghanistan. He however, emphasised the importance of a bilateral security mechanism for the Pak-Afghan border, stressing that the RSM could play an important role. Pakistan has long been insisting on effective border management between Pakistan and Afghanistan for monitoring illegal cross-border movement.

On January 12, US defence secretary-designate, James Mattis said during his confirmation hearing at the US Senate Armed Forces Committee “If confirmed, I will work with the State Department and the Congress to incentivise Pakistan’s cooperation on issues critical to our national interests and the region’s security. He stressed that Pakistan “needs to expel or neutralise externally focused militant groups that operate within its borders.”

Defence Secretary-designate, James Mattis also told the Senate Committee that US ties with Pakistan has had “highs and lows,” and emphasised that he will rebuild the trust between Islamabad and Washington that is needed for an “effective partnership.” James Mattis also said that countries in the region “have the responsibility to support the reconciliation process” in Afghanistan, adding that the neighbouring states “should increase pressure on the Afghan Taliban and associated militant networks” to stop their campaigns of violence. He praised Pakistan for its efforts to combat “internally-focused” militants and acknowledged that its military has suffered “significant casualties in this counterinsurgency effort.” Pak-US relations fell to their lowest point during President Obama’s tenure in the Oval office even as the two sides failed to reduce the trust deficit, particularly over the crisis in Afghanistan. However, Pakistan has expressed a desire to strengthen its bilateral relations with the incoming Trump Administration. Pakistan’s envoy in the US, Jalil Abbas Jilani said on January 14, 2017 that 30 there are hopes that “Pak-US cooperation could be further strengthened in the fight against terrorism by revisiting sale of F-16s and Coalition Fund issues.”  

On January 5, US Secretary of State, John Kerry noted in an exit memo that Pakistan was among the key countries where the United States has constructed state-of-the-art tactical security operations centres.

Kerry also named Afghanistan and Iraq among the countries where the Obama Administration has built such centres. Later the US State Department spokesman, Mark Toner said they were based inside United States embassies worldwide to “monitor worldwide activity”.