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Pakistan halts intelligence sharing after U.S. cuts aid

The U.S. suspended nearly $2 billion in military aid to Pakistan this month following President Trump’s tweet criticizing the country for being a “safe haven to terrorist.” Pakistan in turn halted military and intelligence cooperation with the U.S. Arshad Mohammed, a reporter with Reuters, joins Hari Sreenivasan for an analysis of the complex relationship between the two countries.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    In a New Year's Day tweet President Trump took on the Pakistani government criticizing what he called their lies and deceit and saying that the country gives "safe haven to the terrorists" referring to financial aid sent to Pakistan from the United States. Mr. Trump added, no more U.S. officials later suspended approximately $ 2 billion in such aid. This week Pakistan responded by halting the sharing of intelligence with the United States – something of consequence for the war in Afghanistan. For some analysis of the complex relationship between the two nations I'm joined from Washington D.C. by Reuters reporter Arshad Mohammed. So let's first talk about the most recent news. Pakistan not sharing intelligence. How important is this?

  • ARSHAD MOHAMMED:

    Well, there are different reports about this and to be honest we haven't quite gotten to the bottom of exactly what has or or has not changed. What I think is significant is that the statements made by some Pakistani officials about not sharing intelligence is their way of retaliating for the planned aid suspension. And it's also their way of basically underlining that the United States needs Pakistan if it's going to try to stabilize Afghanistan.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    When the president sent out his tweet it seems like he was ahead of military advisers, intelligence community, State Department people who usually would be in on something like this?

  • ARSHAD MOHAMMED:

    Absolutely. There are two ways to look at this. On the one hand, the direction or the general direction of American policy had been clear at least since August. In August, President Trump gave a speech he made abundantly clear that he was going to get tougher on Pakistan and that he wanted Pakistan to do more to fight the Pakistani Taliban and the Haqqani group. So the general direction of a harder line was was obvious. On the other hand, you know the New Years Day tweet, stunned people across the agencies in the United States and you're right, it included you know DOD,the State Department, the intelligence community. There had been a longer timeline expected on this decision. We were told that an assessment of Pakistani compliance with American demands that they crack down on the militants was expected to be completed in January or February and that a full kind of policy rollout if they were going to cut the aid wasn't expected until March or April. What ultimately happened was basically, you had a bunch of officials who ended up having to work on their New Year's Day holiday and in four days come up with a with a policy to suspend aid. But the most telling detail for me was that Thursday night at the State Department to State Department officials briefed us and they were unable to say how much aid was actually going to get suspended. That is completely atypical. And a couple of officials told us that as of Thursday night, January 4th, the State Department didn't have a National Security Council decision memo. Normally that's a memo that's written that lays everything out in precise detail what's going to happen when and it's all sort of tied up in a bow. And as of Thursday night they were still waiting for that memo that shows that's the clearest indication of how surprised, caught off guard and unprepared the broader Washington bureaucracy was for the president's tweet.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right Arshad Mohammed with Reuters joining us from Washington, D.C. Thanks so much.

  • ARSHAD MOHAMMED:

    Thanks for having me.

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