ISLAMABAD – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, while describing the aspersions of a congressman about Pakistan’s alleged links to terrorism as ‘well-founded’, has announced an inter-agency review of US funding and support to Pakistan.
The remarks at a budget hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week give a rare insight into the Trump administration’s views on Pakistan. Although in power for the last six months, the administration has been unusually silent on US-Pakistan relations.
Secretary Tillerson’s declaration and comments by some lawmakers – both included in a transcript released on Thursday – led the media to speculate that the review may cause further reduction in already dwindling US aid to Pakistan.
Two Republican congressmen – Dana Rohrabacher and Ted Poe – also used this and another hearing at a subcommittee for terrorism, non-proliferation and trade to demand that the US stop selling weapons to Pakistan and declare it a state sponsor of terrorism.
Rohrabacher referred to Dr Shakil Afridi’s continued incarceration and the alleged links of some Pakistani intelligence agencies to Afghan Taliban, before putting his favourite question to the secretary: “Why are we still giving Pakistan any aid at all?”
The question and the remarks of his fellow lawmaker Mr Poe are not unusual as both regularly use such hearings to browbeat Pakistan. But Secretary Tillerson’s response was unexpected as US officials often avoid giving straight answer to such questions.
“Well, we are beginning an interagency policy review towards Pakistan. This is going to be one of the considerations. 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 said.