Earlier this month, the United States suspended security assistance to Pakistan, following through on a threat from President Donald Trump. The move was meant to signify Washington’s frustration with what it describes as Islamabad’s refusal to crack down on sanctuaries used by terrorists that target American soldiers across the border in Afghanistan.
Current tensions in U.S.-Pakistan relations—which flow from the aid freeze and from the Trump administration’s new Afghanistan strategy, and which have spawned increasingly angry rhetoric on both sides—all boil down to a fundamental dispute over this sanctuary issue. It’s a dispute unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. That’s bad news for a relationship already on shaky ground.
From Washington’s perspective, Islamabad is harboring terrorists who kill American soldiers and imperil security in Afghanistan. The very existence of these sanctuaries, the argument goes, ensures a continuation of America’s longest war.