Trump administration proposes cut in aid to Pakistan

May 24, 2017 07:53 pm | Updated 09:34 pm IST - Washington

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney (Right) with bindery manager Butch Wingo, holds a copy of "Budget of the U.S. Government A New Foundation For American Greatness Fiscal Year 2018".

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney (Right) with bindery manager Butch Wingo, holds a copy of "Budget of the U.S. Government A New Foundation For American Greatness Fiscal Year 2018".

Pakistan will be among several countries that will be affected if cuts in military aid to partners proposed by the White House is passed by Congress. The Trump administration has proposed that the military aid to Pakistan in 2018 be reduced to $100 million from $265 million in 2017.

The $100 million is under foreign military funding, to help Pakistan buy military hardware. With other programmes added, total assistance proposed for Pakistan next year is $344 million, which is also a substantial reduction.

Israel, Egypt and Jordan will not face any cuts in military grants. Israel will get $3.1 billion, Egypt $1.3 billion and Jordan $350 million. Morocco, Lebanon and Iraq will face cuts along with Pakistan, if the administration’s proposals are passed. Several Republican lawmakers have said they would oppose the proposals and the budget as drafted by the administration has little chance to be passed.

A CBS report that quoted an internal internal memo said the State Department is opposed to cuts. The memo assesses that the reduction could affect Pakistan's navy, army and air force and diminish its ability to patrol the maritime border. The proposed cuts could impact Pakistan’s ability to fight terrorist organizations in the region, the State Department feels. Department officials also feel that many countries that are on the frontline of the fight against ISIS could be crippled if assistance from the U.S dries up.

In the budget papers released on Tuesday, the State Department said: “Pakistan plays a key role in U.S. counter-terrorism strategy, the peace process in Afghanistan, nuclear non-proliferation efforts, and stability and economic integration in South and Central Asia. It is also a large and growing economy offering profitability for U.S. businesses. In FY 2018, SCA will maintain a robust diplomatic presence that will enable continued bilateral cooperation on the many joint U.S.- Pakistan interests, and bolster stability in this strategically important country.”

The Trump administration has also proposed that the military grants may be converted to loans wherever appropriate, an idea that could be detrimental to American interests according to many commentators. The proposed system will require partner countries to buy American weaponry with the loans before paying the money back to America. If implemented, the new system could drive many countries to America's rivals such as China and Russia for military hardware and the State Department bureaucracy is opposed to it.

Military and other assistance for partner countries is a major source of American soft power but the America First approach of the Trump administration is targeting such spending. The State Department will face a cut of around 30 percent in 2018.

“.. cut means you really have to withdraw from the world because your presence is compromised,” Lindsay Graham, Republican Senator said. “That may be the goal of this budget. It’s not my goal. This guts soft power as we know it.”

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