Pakistan court frees anti-US cleric amid spat with Trump

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Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan Tuesday said in Islamabad that Pakistan has suspended defense and intelligence cooperation with the United States amid growing tensions over the USA suspension of military aid to Pakistan.

This comes as the US President Donald Trump last week criticized Pakistan in strong words for harboring the terrorist groups despite receiving billions in aid to support the counter-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan.

The Pakistan Foreign Office said on Thursday it is in talks with the United States over matters of mutual interest, including security assistance, but it was too soon to reveal more at this point in time.

Goldstein added the United States is "hopeful that Pakistan will come back to the table" and assist in US efforts to combat terrorism.

Ijaz Awan, a retired major general in the Pakistani military, argued that the USA has pursued a policy of "coercion" towards Pakistan and that the approach of pressure tactics will be counterproductive.

Historically, Pakistan has faced the same type of criticism before regarding its counterterrorism efforts and providing of "safe havens" to terrorists from the past two White House administrations, with the Pakistani government staunchly refusing to ramp up their operational tempo when accused of aiding the Taliban's efforts.

"We shall not stop in our endeavors to root out terrorism, no matter what the cost", said Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in a recent statement.

Defense experts think the USA allegations and halt to military aid have forced the Pakistani government to use its leverage as it has this option, in view of the growing US pressure and its use of the blame game.

Pakistan issued a statement on Friday that said, "We are engaged with the US Administration on the issue of security cooperation and await further details".

The current U.S. -Pakistan feud first kicked off after Trump first took office, when he called out Islamabad in August 2017 during the announced of a new strategy for Afghanistan that called for an increase in troop levels, saying Washington could "no longer be silent about Pakistan's safe havens for terrorist organizations".

Although it is still not clear how much aid has been stopped, Mr Olson said the decision could affect about $1.3 billion worth of annual aid.

Public accusations by Trump and other US officials were not taken well in Pakistan and political watchers and senior media personnel have slammed the USA move.

At a seminar titled "Contours of Security Environment of Pakistan", he reportedly said that despite the United States spending billions of dollars, it was facing defeat in Afghanistan and was using Pakistan as a scapegoat for its failures.

"The United States has tuned Afghanistan into another Vietnam as it needs a scapegoat".

The report said that the announcement was made by Pakistan Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan during an address at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad on Tuesday.

This is still a goodwill gesture by Pakistan at a time when the USA and its allies are still facing serious security challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan's security cooperation is vital to the US success in Afghanistan.

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