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American aid cuts to Pakistan won’t change its policy toward terrorism

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American aid cuts to Pakistan

On Thursday, the State Department announced a freeze on most of Washington’s security aid to Pakistan. The decision won’t torpedo the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, as a rupture in relations would more likely result from a more drastic measure, such as designating Pakistan as a state sponsor of terror.

Still, a fragile partnership already on tenterhooks will now grow ever more tenuous, especially because cutting aid to the Pakistanis is unlikely to compel them to crack down on the terrorists that target American troops in Afghanistan. In other words, Pakistan won’t do what America wants it to do. That’s because Pakistan’s links to the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network, groups based in Pakistan that stage attacks in Afghanistan, serve longstanding national interests that are all but immutable.

Consider that these groups push back against the presence of Pakistan’s archenemy, India, in Afghanistan. The Taliban and Haqqani network may be fighting Afghan and American troops, but they’re also virulently anti-Indian and have attacked Indian targets in Afghanistan. Pakistan views India as an existential threat, and as the less powerful of the two, it must rely on asymmetric means to push back against India. Using non-state militant actors against its fearsome foe serves that purpose.
Additionally, Pakistan rightly believes U.S. forces will eventually leave Afghanistan. Amid the large-scale destabilization, including civil war, that may ensue, Pakistan wants to ensure it retains influence with and ties to the Taliban, arguably the most powerful non-state actor in Afghanistan. So the very terrorists that America wants Pakistan to eliminate are embraced by Pakistan as assets to be deployed against India, and as hedges against an eventual U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

For Pakistan, ties to terrorists amount to a strategic imperative. Being deprived of aid, even hundreds of millions of dollars of it, won’t change this calculus. It’s not as if the aid suspension will deliver a devastating blow to Pakistan. It can compensate by tapping into its deep security partnerships with Saudi Arabia and China. Pakistan has weathered previous U.S. aid suspensions, and this time around should be no different.

It’s hard to say what can be done to change Pakistan’s policy toward terrorists. The Trump administration has suggested it may resort to punitive actions that go beyond aid cuts. The implication is that draconian measures could eventually bring Pakistan to its knees and cause it to capitulate to U.S. demands.

These tough steps may include expanding drone strikes, revoking Pakistan’s non-NATO ally status, sanctioning Pakistani military officers with ties to terror, and designating Pakistan as a sponsor of terror. They could also entail non-security punitive measures such as getting the International Monetary Fund, where Washington enjoys strong influence, to stop providing lifelines, in the form of loans and bailout packages, to Pakistan’s fragile economy.

Yet, if provoked by these draconian policies, an outraged Pakistan may be inclined to tighten rather than ease its embrace of militants. It could help the Taliban and Haqqani Network intensify violence in Afghanistan. Indeed, for Washington, taking a harder line on Pakistan is risky business and could exacerbate the already-immense challenges of its warfighting efforts in Afghanistan.

Pakistan may contend it would be more willing to address U.S. concerns about terror if America helped advance Pakistan’s interests, such as by actively pursuing a solution to the Kashmir dispute, or by cutting back on its rapidly growing ties with India. In reality, because of its own interests, these are non-starters for Washington.

But this all amounts to putting the cart before the horse. For now, the Trump administration has restricted itself to suspending security assistance. In the coming days, expect angry statements from the Pakistani government, but perhaps not much else. Some analysts have suggested Pakistan may retaliate by shutting down the supply routes on its soil used by NATO vehicles to access Afghanistan. That is certainly possible.

However, Pakistan may also opt to hold its fire, preferring to keep its prime tool of leverage in reserve as a deterrent to forestall the possibility of Washington resorting to more draconian moves. For now, Pakistan may instead retaliate with softer measures, such as issuing fewer visas to Americans.

There are lessons in all of this, and particularly for members of Congress, including most recently Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who plans to introduce legislation to end aid to Pakistan. Aid cuts to Pakistan can convey strong messages of unhappiness about Pakistan’s policy toward terrorism, but they can’t be expected to induce changes in Pakistan’s behavior. In the context of U.S.-Pakistan relations, the core impacts of aid cuts are symbolic more than substantive.

So the best way to pitch a bill to Americans about ending aid to Pakistan is to emphasize the benefit not for U.S. foreign policy, but for the U.S. economy: It puts money back in the hands of the American taxpayer.

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America

US unemployment rate falls to 50-year low

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The U.S. unemployment rate fell in September to a new five-decade low of 3.5%, while employers added a modest 136,000 jobs.

The Labor Department says that despite the ultra-low unemployment rate, which was down from 3.7% in August, average hourly wages slipped by a penny. Hourly pay rose just 2.9% from a year earlier, lower than 3.4% at the beginning of the year.

Hiring has slowed this year as the U.S.-China trade war has intensified, global growth has slowed, and businesses have cut back on their investment spending. Still, hiring has averaged 157,000 in the past three months, enough to lower the unemployment rate over time.

The unemployment rate for Latinos fell to 3.9%, the lowest on records dating from 1973.

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Trump embarrassed by TV channel

As Trump was speaking to the media after meeting Zelensky to clarify his position, MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace cut into it, saying: “We hate to do this but the President isn’t telling the truth.”

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New York, Sep 26 : US President Donald Trump was subjected to an embarrassment when the MSNBC news channel cut away from his press conference while he was speaking on the controversy surrounding him over the Ukrainian probe against former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump on Wednesday was addressing the press conference against the backdrop of impeachment proceedings announced against him by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi following allegations that he put pressure on the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to order a probe against Biden whose family has business interests there.

The allegation against Trump came to light because of a whistleblower and a transcript of the conversation between him and Zelensky in July, which has become public.

As Trump was speaking to the media after meeting Zelensky to clarify his position, MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace cut into it, saying: “We hate to do this but the President isn’t telling the truth.”

She added that Trump was trying to do it to deflect the attention from his impeachment.

According to the transcript of the telephonic conversation that has gone public, Trump is heard asking Zelensky to “do us a favour”, after the latter expresses gratitude for the military aid the US provided to his country.

Trump’s words of “do us a favour” is seen as a quid pro quo for the American military aid, because of which the impeachment proceedings have been announced.

After Wallace cut the press conference, her guest on the programme, justice and security analyst Matthew Miller, rebuked Trump for saying that Biden and his son had done wrong.

“This story has been looked at and thoroughly debunked by everyone involved,” Miller said, adding the real issue was whether Trump’s conduct is “impeachable”.

Trump is facing problem at a time when he is in New York to attend the UN General Assembly.

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Kim Jong-un receives ‘excellent’ letter from Trump

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Pyongyang, June 23 North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has received a personal letter with “excellent” and “interesting” content from US President Donald Trump, Pyongyang’s state media said on Sunday.

“After reading the letter, the Supreme Leader of the Party, the state and the armed forces said with satisfaction that the letter is of excellent content,” the Korean Central News Agency said, referring to its leader.

“Appreciating the political judging faculty and extraordinary courage of President Trump, Kim Jong-un said that he would seriously contemplate the interesting content,” it added.

The KCNA did not disclose when and how the letter was delivered to Kim, reports Yonhap News Agency.

The letter appears to be in response to the one Kim sent to Trump recently in time for the anniversary of their first-ever summit in Singapore last June.

Trump had described Kim’s letter as “beautiful” and “very warm”. He also emphasized that the relationship between them remains strong and that “something will happen that’s going to be very positive”.

The exchange of correspondence between the leaders renewed hopes for a resumption of denuclearization talks which have stalled since the breakdown of their second summit in February.

The summit collapsed as Pyongyang wanted sanctions relief as a corresponding measure in exchange for dismantling its Yongbyon nuclear complex, while Washington insisted that sanctions should remain in place until the North completely gives up its nuclear weapons programme.

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