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June 16, 2017

US begins policy review of its ties with Pakistan

WASHINGTON: Along with a renewed partnership with Afghanistan, the Trump administration is also conducting an inter-agency policy review of its relations with Pakistan, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has announced.

During a Congressional hearing here on Wednesday, the secretary said, "We are beginning an inter-agency policy review towards Pakistan. This [continuation of US aid to Pakistan] is going to be one of the considerations."

Appearing before the House-Foreign Relations Committee, the secretary discussed the State Department's annual budget proposals with the US lawmakers. Responding to a question asked by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher as to why the US continues to provide financial assistance to Pakistan.

"The president has asked the question specifically about our level of support and funding to Pakistan. No decision is to be taken until we complete that policy review," Tillerson responded.

He further said, "Pakistan and our relationship with them touches on some much broader issues relative to stability in Afghanistan and how we achieve that, but also stability in the Indo-Pacific region. It is a very complex relationship we have with the government of Pakistan, but your concerns are all well founded."

Congressman Rohrabaher mentioned Shakeel Afridi, who he said helped the US capture and kill Osama bin Laden. He also blamed Pakistan for the US shortcomings in Afghanistan. "If we don't succeed in Afghanistan, it will be because of the ISI in Pakistan," Rohrabacher said.

Congressman Ted Poe also joined in saying, "We give them money. That money ends up in the hands of bad guys in Afghanistan who hurt Americans. And I personally think that Pakistan should not get any American money."

Secretary Tillerson said, "I mention that in the context of Pakistan because you cannot work one without the other. In the interim, though, we have had inter-agency discussions with the president about how to preserve the opportunity for a long-term solution in Afghanistan where we do not leave Afghanistan, where we never allow Afghanistan to become the platform for terrorism to be launched against the United States or certainly others."

What the US is following now are the policies of the prior administration, and some steps need to be taken to stem the effects of those while the Trump government gets its policies in place, Tillerson said, adding that the review should be completed in coming weeks and would be discussed with President Trump for the final decision.