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Funds due to Pakistan will be frozen but not cancelled, says U.S.

U.S. President Donald Trump.   | Photo Credit: AP

The United States on Thursday said it was suspending all security assistance to Pakistan until Islamabad “takes decisive action against groups, including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network.”

The announcements from the State and Defence Departments followed a public condemnation of Pakistan by President Donald Trump on January 1 for sheltering terrorists.

Also read: Trump ‘talking in the language of India’, Pakistani Foreign Minister

The total amount in question could exceed a billion dollars, though no official figure has been provided. The decision will delay - and perhaps eventually deny — pending payments to Pakistan under the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and the reimbursement by Pentagon for logistical support in the Afghanistan war, or the Coalition Support Fund (CSF).

Civilian assistance programmes untouched

U.S. civilian assistance programmes in Pakistan are not included in the suspension and exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis if they are "determined to be critical to national security interests,” administration officials said.

The harshest measure appears to be the decision to keep the entire CSF for 2017 in suspension. Of the total $900 million CSF earmarked for 2017, $400 million is tied to a certification that Pakistan is taking adequate measures against the Haqqani Network. Pakistan was unlikely to get that component as it has failed to get the certification since 2015.

A Pentagon spokesperson said the entire $900 million for 2017 would be in suspension. In normal course, CSF disbursements are not due for several months now.

Defence and State Department officials were, however, categorical that all these measures were reversible and Pakistan could get this money if it changed its behaviour. “….this is something that I really want to reiterate: Everything that we’re talking about is reversible,” a State Department official, speaking on background, said.

Cmdr. Patrick Evans, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, said these funds “will be frozen but not cancelled.” “….as we continue to hope Pakistan will take the decisive action against terrorist and militant groups that we seek," he said.

State Department officials said the $255 million in FMF for 2016 that has been kept in a separate account since September would remain there for now. A decision on a similar amount for 2017 is not due until September 2018.

“Suspension is not a permanent cut-off at this time”

“The suspension is not a permanent cut-off at this time. Security assistance funding impending deliveries will be frozen, but not cancelled, as we continue to hope Pakistan will take the decisive action against terrorist and militant groups that we seek. We do not intend to reprogram any funds at this time,” a State Department official said. This means that these funds could be available to Pakistan at a future date.

The announcements on Thursday appear to be rushed, in order to follow through on Mr. Trump’s new year tweet. Asked during a press interaction at the Pentagon whether he was in favour of cutting off the Pakistan aid, Defence Secretary James Mattis said: “I prefer not to address that right now because it's obviously still being formulated as policy. But I'll give my advice on it to the President.”

Mr. Mattis said he did not foresee a situation of Pakistan blocking access for American troop movement and supplies for Afghanistan. “We have had no indication of anything like that,” he said in response to a question.

The Pentagon and the State Department officials left the door open for reconciliation with Islamabad. “Pakistan remains an important country in the region and in the world, and has historically been a vital partner for the U.S….The United States acknowledges and appreciates Pakistan’s successful efforts to combat militants that threaten the Pakistani state, such as the Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaida, and ISIS. And Pakistan has sacrificed a significant amount, including tens of thousands of military and security officials, as well as civilians killed in the fight against terrorism over the last couple of years,” a State Department official said.

“Pak. statements on Haqqani Network, Taliban not correct” 

“They [Pakistan] deny that they provide any kind of sanctuary to the Haqqani Network or to the Taliban. And they state that their leverage over the Haqqani Network and the Taliban is very limited. We disagree. We believe that there is significant evidence that leadership of the Haqqani Network resides inside Pakistan and is able to plan and execute from Pakistan attacks inside Afghanistan. So the disagreement is much more about those facts than it is on our overarching goals in the strategy,” the official said, adding that the U.S. has conveyed to Pakistan specific and concrete steps that it could take toward these ends. “We will continue these conversations with the Pakistani government in private,” he said.

Joshua T. White, Associate Professor of Practice, South Asia Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, who served at the Obama White House as Senior Advisor & Director for South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council, told The Hindu: “This suspension will no doubt put pressure on Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves, but I am skeptical that cutting a few hundred million dollars in assistance will induce Pakistan to make significant changes to its security policy. Today’s announcement sends a signal about the U.S. administration’s intent to hold Pakistan to account in the public domain. Whether it accomplishes more than that is yet to be seen.”

Mr. White noted that Pakistan has long been one of the top-five recipients in the world of the U.S. FMF.  Under the CSF, the U.S. haD paid out well over $10 billion since 2001, he said. “In addition, there are a number of smaller pots of money that support military training, counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism cooperation, and law enforcement,” he said.


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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 8:09:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/us-suspends-aid-for-pakistan-officials-say-decision-reversible/article22373000.ece

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