Terror elements spread in every nook and corner of Pakistan: Khawaja Asif

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Asked during a press interaction at the Pentagon whether he was in favour of cutting off the Pakistan aid, Defence Secretary James Mattis said: "I prefer not to address that right now because it's obviously still being formulated as policy".

Asif accused American President Donald Trump's administration of turning Pakistan into a "whipping boy".

That same day, an anonymous DOS official explained to reporters that the Trump administration is only freezing the aid. It also placed the country on a watch list of nations failing to protect religious freedom. The administration wisely said it's only suspending aid for the moment, to give Pakistan an opportunity to reconsider its position.

"Arbitrary deadlines, unilateral pronouncements and shifting goalposts are counterproductive in addressing common threats", the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement. "The US will suspend that kind of security assistance to Pakistan", State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters.

Both the US action and Trump's remarks have upset many in Pakistan. "At one time Pakistan had the option to become the ally of Russian Federation but it opted to join hands with the United States instead", he said.

South Asia expert Christine Fair of Georgetown University voiced concern that Pakistan might retaliate for the suspension by closing the highways from the port city of Karachi on which equipment is trucked to land-locked Afghanistan and the airspace through which supplies are flown to USA -led worldwide forces there. "So the disagreement is much more about those facts than it is on our overarching goals in the strategy", the official said, adding that the US has conveyed to Pakistan specific and concrete steps that it could take toward these ends. According to a senior State Department official, no decision has been taken on the fate of $255 million security assistance to Pakistan for the fiscal year 2017.

Washington accuses Islamabad of assisting Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network militants causing chaos in Afghanistan. "All this funding is available to Pakistan, if they undertake to take the measures that we've asked of them", a senior administration official said in response to a question. In fact, Pakistan encouraged Americans to fear the worst outcome: a rupture in the state security apparatus that would allow terrorists to get their hands on Pakistani nuclear know-how, fissile materials, or weapons-even as Pakistan used US funds to invest in such assets along the way. "They have to take decisive steps", she added.

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"There is a $ 10 million reward out for information leading to his re-arrest, the person who is the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks who was let go in Pakistan", Nauert said.

The tension between the two governments was evident during a meeting between Asif and national security adviser H.R. McMaster in October at the White House, Asif said in Thursday's TV interview. Most supplies travel along Pakistani roads and rails. "The ones without them did not fare so well", he said. The foreign minister responded that his country had little trust in the United States as well.

"For all the talk of how the USA may finally be taking its pressure to a new level to get the results it wants, pushing harder could backfire in a big way", cautioned Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center, a Washington-based foreign policy think tank. "Well Pakistan didn't even help us find Bin Laden, even though he was living in one of their cities for years", he said in a video statement on Twitter.

Pakistan and the United States settled into an uneasy alliance after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, with Pakistan arresting al-Qaeda operatives and allowing drone attacks inside its airspace.

Prominent among the suspended amount include $255 million in Foreign Military Funding (FMF) for the fiscal year 2016 as mandated by the Congress. And after Pakistani forces this fall freed a Canadian-American family captured by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network, the government refused the Americans access to one of the abductors. "The country's dignity should be maintained, while engaging with the USA", he said.

Meanwhile, amid reports that the Trump administration was set to announce more drastic steps against Islamabad, the Pakistan Army said the country would respond to any United States action in line with the aspirations of the people.

Gowen reported from New Delhi.

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