Pakistan has summoned the American ambassador to the country in protest at U.S. President Donald Trump's angry tweet about what he called Pakistan's "lies and deceit." At the same time, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif dismissed the tweet as a political stunt.
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A U.S. National Security Council official on Monday said the White House would not send $255 million in aid to Pakistan "at this time" and said "the administration continues to review Pakistan's level of cooperation." In August, the administration had said it was delaying the payment and Bloomberg confirmed Tuesday that the funds would be held.
In a withering attack, Trump tweeted on Monday that the United States has "foolishly" handed Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid in the last 15 years and had been rewarded with "nothing but lies and deceit".
"They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!" Trump wrote on Twitter.
Ambassador David Hale was summoned by the Pakistan Foreign Office on Monday to explain Trump's tweet, media said. A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, confirmed that the meeting took place.
Pakistan's prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, was due to chair a cabinet meeting on Tuesday focusing on Trump's tweet, while on Wednesday the country's top civilian and military chiefs will meet to discuss deteriorating U.S. ties. Relations between United States and its uneasy ally Pakistan have been strained for many years over Islamabad's alleged support for Haqqani network militants, who are allied with the Afghan Taliban.
Washington has signaled to Pakistan that it would cut aid and enact other punitive measures if Islamabad did not stop helping or turning a blind eye to the Haqqani network militants who carry out cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.
Islamabad bristles at the suggestion that it is not doing enough in the war against militancy, saying that since 2001, Pakistan has suffered more than the United States from militants as casualties at the hands of Islamists number in the tens of thousands.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja dismissed Trump's comments as a political stunt borne out of frustration over U.S. failures in Afghanistan, where Afghan Taliban militants have been gaining territory and carrying out major attacks.
"He has tweeted against us [Pakistan] and Iran for his domestic consumption," Asif told Geo TV on Monday. "He is again and again displacing his frustrations on Pakistan over failures in Afghanistan as they are trapped in [a] dead-end street in Afghanistan." Asif added that Pakistan did not need U.S. aid.