US President Donald Trump praised a bill that Senator Rand Paul plans to introduce, aiming to cut all US aid to Pakistan, after the US State Department conditionally withheld security funding to the country.
“Good idea Rand!” Trump tweeted Friday night, sharing a video of Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) promoting his bill to eliminate US aid to Pakistan and use that money towards domestic infrastructure projects.
The bill is expected to be introduced in the coming days.
In the video, Paul criticized Islamabad, which does not “deserve” US money, for what he alleges is its willingness to harbor terrorist groups, while continuing to take assistance from Washington to the tune of billions of dollars.
Pakistan and other countries “stonewall access to key information in fighting terrorism,” the Kentucky senator says in the video. “Pakistan didn’t even help us find bin Laden,” Paul added, “even though he was living in one of their cities for years.”
Paul, who calls himself a libertarian, ended the video message by calling for all foreign aid to end, as part of an “America First policy.” The position was part of his 2016 presidential platform when he ran against Trump in the Republican primary.
The senator, who has been both an ally and political foe of President Trump on many issues, said he discussed a solution with the president on Tuesday that focused on spending some of the money that would otherwise be used in aid to Pakistan to build up US infrastructure at home, according to the Washington Examiner.
In his first tweet in 2018, the US leader lashed out at Islamabad, saying it was “giving safe haven to the terrorists,” repeating his hardline stance on the country that he initially voiced in August 2017. He also threatened to cut aid. On January 2, US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley said that the US is freezing $255 million in assistance to Pakistan, which was suspended in August of last year. Accusing Islamabad of playing “a double game for years,” she said the US expects “far more cooperation from Pakistan in the fight against terrorism.” On Thursday, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert announced the suspension of security assistance without elaborating on the exact amount.
The security aid suspension will also impact at least $900 million in coalition support funds (CSF) authorized for Pakistan for the 2017 fiscal year. The CSF reimburses Pakistan for counter-terrorism operations and accounts for the majority of US aid, which totals more than $33 million over the past 15 years.
The US rhetoric has provoked fury in Pakistan, with people taking to the streets to burn Trump’s effigy and portraits along with US flags. Islamabad firmly denied allegations of harboring terrorists and inaction in the fight against extremists, and pointed out that Washington has used its bases to attack terrorists in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s foreign minister, Khawaja Asif, said that Pakistan “went through a bloodbath” after “blindly” trusting Washington, and Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan vowed a “cold-blooded response” to the intention to withhold aid to Pakistan.