The US government has cancelled $300m in military aid to Pakistan ahead of an expected visit to Islamabad by US secretary of state Mike Pompeo to meet newly elected prime minister Imran Khan.
Pakistani officials said the timing of the weekend announcement by the US military appeared to set the tone for a difficult meeting between the countries in the coming week. â€śThey [the US] are signalling to Pakistan. Be prepared for some tough talk by Mike Pompeo,â€ť one senior government official in Islamabad told the Financial Times on Sunday.
Lieutenant Colonel KonĂ© Faulkner, Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement on Saturday: â€śWe continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groupsâ€ť following up on a long list of similar messages from Washington.
Due to â€śa lack of Pakistani decisive actionsâ€ť, Colonel Faulkner said, the US military aimed to spend the money on other â€śurgent prioritiesâ€ť.
In the past, US president Donald Trump has accused Pakistan of deceiving Washington while receiving billions of dollars in assistance. The US said in January that it would suspend security assistance to Pakistan worth $2bn after Mr Trump said Islamabad refused to crack down on terrorism.
Analysts warned that the latest US action will only complicate Washingtonâ€™s attempts to seek Pakistanâ€™s help in bringing the Taliban in Afghanistan to the negotiating table with the government of Afghan president Ashraf Ghani in Kabul.
â€śIf the US wants to have dealings with Pakistan, it cannot continue to escalate the pressure on Pakistan,â€ť retired Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi, a former senior Pakistani diplomat told the FT. He said the Islamabad â€świll have to take a strong positionâ€ť in response to it.
The latest discord is rooted in the history of Pakistanâ€™s military co-operation with the US, dating back to the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks. US officials have repeatedly pressed Pakistan to widen a large-scale military campaign against Taliban militants in the border areas along Afghanistan, to include members of the Haqqani militant network.
The network is named after Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani, a notorious Islamist guerrilla commander funded and armed by the US in the 1980s to fight troops from the former Soviet Union. After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, Mr Haqqani and his followers joined Islamist militants in the 1990s and eventually became tied to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
â€śThe Haqqani are among the most diehard militants today in Afghanistan. They continue to attack Afghan army and US forces in Afghanistan,â€ť one western diplomat told the FT.
However, Pakistani leaders dating back to General Pervez Musharraf, the former military ruler from 1999 to 2008, have repeatedly told their western counterparts including the US that they have no ties to the Haqqani network.
On Sunday, a second senior Pakistani government official told the FT that the US had neither provided â€śprecise details of exactly where the problem lies geographically [within Pakistan] nor given us the technology like armed drones to attack themâ€ť.