Editor's note:

In Unpacked, Brookings experts provide analysis of Trump administration policies and news.

THE ISSUE: President Trump’s first tweet of 2018 was a surprising and scathing attack on Pakistan. In it, Trump called out Pakistan for the aid it has received from the United States over the past few years, while accusing the country of providing only “lies and deceit” in return. Since then, the Trump administration has suspended military and security assistance to Pakistan.

To win the war in Afghanistan, America needs Pakistan for supply routes as well as to negotiate a lasting settlement and peace in Afghanistan


  • President Trump began the year on Twitter by saying that Pakistan had engaged in lies and deceit over a fifteen or so year period during which the U.S. has provided Pakistan with $33 billion in aid.
  • Though the United States was one of the first allies Pakistan had at its conception, the two nations have had a fraught relationship over the past 30 years.
  • In the 1980s, the U.S. gave funding and arms to Pakistan that helped it train the Mujahideen that fought the Soviets in Afghanistan.
  • In the 1990s, the Afghan-Soviet War ended and the U.S. withdrew from the region. Pakistanis viewed this as abandonment, which fed into the narrative that the U.S. uses Pakistan and then betrays it.
  • In 1990, the U.S. determined that Pakistan had a nuclear device, leading it to cut off military and economic aid.
  • After 9/11, the U.S. called on Pakistan to join their war on terror in Afghanistan. Pakistan assisted the U.S. in return for military and security aid.
  • After the mid-2000s, Pakistan struggled with a Taliban insurgency on its own soil.
  • In the waning years of the Obama administration, the U.S. found that Pakistan was providing a safe haven to the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, and as a result withheld aid.
  • The current situation is, in a way, just a continuation of the Obama administration’s policy with much stronger rhetoric and a more single-minded focus on the Haqqanis.
  • To win the war in Afghanistan, America needs Pakistan for supply routes as well as to negotiate a lasting settlement and peace in Afghanistan.
  • The United States is also concerned that Pakistan has nuclear weapons and could go to war with its perceived enemy, India.
  • Pakistan craves the approval of the U.S. and the stature associated with strong U.S. ties.
  • The U.S.-Pakistan relationship right now is at a low point and it is unlikely to improve soon unless the elements within the Pakistani military that support the Haqqani network fundamentally change their behavior.
  • The relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan could worsen in the short term if the Trump administration follows the decision to cut off aid with further actions, such as rescinding Pakistan’s major non-NATO ally status, declaring Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, or diplomatically isolating Pakistan.
  • The relationship could improve if the U.S. seeks to develop a long-term relationship with Pakistan’s civilian government, not its military.


Pakistan Under Siege

Trump’s tweet about Pakistan, explained

Why the Trump administration’s policy on Pakistan is likely to fail

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