During A Tense Time, Pompeo Prepares To Visit Pakistan
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to visit Pakistan tomorrow, just days after the United States canceled a military aid program. Here's NPR's Diaa Hadid in Islamabad.
DIAA HADID, BYLINE: For years, relations have been frazzled between Pakistan and the United States, but it's more antagonistic under President Trump. In January, the White House said it was suspending most military aid to Pakistan. And just on Sunday, the Pentagon announced it was reallocating $300 million of that money. It was suspended because Washington accuses Pakistan of harboring militants, including the Taliban, who target U.S. forces and their allies in Afghanistan. The Pentagon's also called on Pakistan to bring the Taliban leadership to the negotiating table. Islamabad says it's long supported talks between the United States and the Taliban. Senator Mushahid Hussain is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.
MUSHAHID HUSSAIN: The U.S. should seek a very clear policy of promoting peace, security and stability through an Afghan peace process, which includes the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban.
HADID: But after years of poor relations between the U.S. and Pakistan, many here view Pompeo's visit with mistrust.
M. HUSSAIN: We feel that the Trump administration is relying on a tried, tested and failed formula of trying to bully and browbeat Pakistan.
HADID: And then there's this. How much influence does Pakistan now have over the Taliban? Zahid Hussain is an author and an analyst of Pakistan's foreign policy. He says over the years...
ZAHID HUSSAIN: The Taliban have expanded their area of control in Afghanistan. That has given them much more independence.
HADID: He says now that the Taliban are stronger, stronger than they've been for years, they just don't need Pakistan like they used to. He says that means Pakistan has far less leverage now than they've had before. In the meantime, Pakistan's facing an economic crisis, and it's likely to seek a bailout with billions of dollars from the International Monetary Fund. For that, it needs American support. So with both sides needing the other's support - the Americans wanting the Taliban to talk, the Pakistanis wanting assurances of support at the IMF - there might be enough here to keep the relationship going.
Diaa Hadid, NPR News, Islamabad.
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