Pakistan Reaches Out to Trump as Congress Mulls ‘State Sponsor of Terror’ Label

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event September 6, 2016 in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
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Pakistan has embarked on a major diplomatic campaign to establish early relations with the incoming administration of Republican President-elect Donald Trump as some GOP lawmakers are pushing bills to cut foreign aid to the South Asian country and designate it a state-sponsor of terrorism.

Pakistan has deployed a “vanguard team” to Washington D.C. as part of a major “diplomatic campaign to establish early ties with the Trump administration,” reports DAWN.

Pakistan’s Special Assistant for Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi is reportedly among the team currently visiting the United States. ThePakistani embassy has described his visit as the first of many in the early days of the Trump presidency.

DAWN reports:

Mr Fatemi, who begins his official engagements in Washington on Monday, will also visit New York early next week for meetings with members of the Trump transition team. In Washington, Mr Fatemi will meet members of the new US Congress, elected last month, and officials of the outgoing [President Barack] Obama administration.

There are at least two people in the senior Trump team who are familiar with Pakistan and are aware of its importance in the fight against terrorism — the nominee for Secretary of Defence, [Retired Marine Gen.] James Mattis, and the proposed National Security Adviser, [Army Lt. Gen.] Michael Flynn. Mr Flynn… spoke about Pakistan’s role in the war against terrorism when he attended [an event] at the Pakistan Embassy in September.

Last Wednesday, PM Nawaz Sharif called President-elect Trump to congratulate him on his victory, according to a readout of the conversation released by the Pakistani government.

“President Trump said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif you have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way,” said the statement issued by Sharif’s office.

The president-elect’s office confirmed the conversation with Sharif in its own statement.

Trump and Sharif had a “productive conversation about how the United States and Pakistan will have a strong working relationship in the future,” noted the statement, adding,”President-elect Trump also noted that he is looking forward to a lasting and strong personal relationship with Prime Minister Sharif.”

Trump has criticized Pakistan in the past, tweeting in January 2012, “Pakistan is not our friend. We’ve given them billions and billions of dollars, and what did we get? Betrayal and disrespect — and much worse…”

Moreover, the incoming Trump administration’s official policy document, its manifesto, acknowledges the lingering complications that can further strain relations between the United States and Pakistan.

It highlights the relationship between the two nations as “necessary” but “difficult” but it also expresses the desire to “strengthen” the “historic ties that have frayed under the weight of international conflict.”

Relations between the administration of President Barack Obama and Pakistan have deteriorated in recent years.

The GOP-led Congress’ relationship with Pakistan has not fared any better.

Two top Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill to designate Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism.

The U.S. Congress has also placed conditions on hundreds of millions of dollars in security and other economic assistance to Pakistan, requiring the predominantly Sunni Muslim nation to take adequate action against the al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked Haqqani Network, which the U.S. military has determined poses the number one threat to U.S. troops and their allies fighting terrorism in Afghanistan.

Since the war in Afghanistan began, the United States has provided neighboring Pakistan more than $30 billion in American taxpayer funds for security and other economic aid.

This year alone, the GOP Congress has halted more than $300 million in military reimbursements for refusing to “significantly [disrupt] the safe haven and freedom of movement of the Haqqani Network in Pakistan,” as mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2016.

The NDAA for 2017, which has been approved by the House of Representatives, imposes a similar restriction on half of the $900 million in economic and other assistance it pledges to Pakistan.

Like its predecessor, the defense authorization for 2017 requires the U.S. Secretary of Defense to report to Congress whether Islamabad has been conducting military operations “that are contributing to significantly disrupting the safe haven and freedom of movement of the Haqqani Network in Pakistan.”

The 2017 bill conditions $450 million to the certification from the Pentagon chief that Pakistan is taking adequate action against the Sunni Haqqani Network.

This week, the Senate is expected to vote on the legislation.

In the last few years, the Pentagon, echoing U.S. allies Afghanistan and India, have accused Pakistan of serving as a sanctuary for terrorist groups fighting American and NATO troops on Afghan soil. India is Pakistan’s regional rival. The relationship between Afghanistan and neighboring Afghanistan has also been strained. Meanwhile, Pakistan accuses both India and Afghanistan of supporting terrorism.


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