By Safvan Allahverdi
WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. will suspend most security assistance to Pakistan, the State Department announced Thursday, amid increasing tension between Washington and Islamabad.
"We will not deliver military equipment or transfer security-related funds to Pakistan unless it is required by law," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters, claiming that Pakistan provides safe havens to terrorists fighting in Afghanistan.
Nauert said the suspension would allow the administration, which will freeze the aid payments but not allocate the money elsewhere, to reassess in the coming year.
She did not reveal the estimated amount of aid funds that will be cut off. However, as much as $1.3 billion could be frozen, according to experts.
President Donald Trump said Monday in a tweet that the U.S. had “foolishly” given billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan, which in return had allegedly provided safe havens to terrorists fighting in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan has the ability to get this money back in the future, but they have to take decisive action,” Nauert said, adding that the suspension could be lifted if Pakistan changed its behavior by doing more to fight terror groups.
However, the charge was immediately denied by Islamabad. Pakistan expressed “deep disappointment” over the U.S. claims and said it was already doing a lot to fight militants.
According to data released Tuesday by Pakistan, at least 62,421 lives, including 50,000 civilians and remaining security personnel, were lost from 2003 to 2017 during the war against terror, with a $123 billion loss to the country’s economy.
"President Trump quoted a figure of $33 billion given to Pakistan over the last 15 years. He can hire a U.S.-based audit firm on our expense to verify this figure & let the world know who is lying & deceiving," Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said in a tweet Tuesday.
Additionally, earlier on the same day, the U.S. placed Pakistan on a special watch list for what it described as the country’s “severe violations of religious freedom”.