USA freezes over $1.1 billion aid to Pakistan for harbouring terror groups

10 January, 2018, 01:31 | Author: Malcolm Fuller
  • US and Pakistan relations in the coming year

Mr Mattis said the Trump administration considered all possibilities before suspending its military assistance to Pakistan and was not anxious about Islamabad shutting off supplies to Afghanistan in retaliation. "This is not how allies behave".

Briefing reporters, United States officials stressed the suspension did not affect civilian aid to Pakistan and that the money could go through if Islamabad took decisive action against the groups.

Besides calling on Pakistan to combat the Afghan Taliban and its al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network allies, which the Pentagon has deemed the top threat against US troops in Afghanistan, the anonymous DOS official also urged Islamabad to take action against anti-India terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e Tayyiba (LET) and Jaish-e Mohammed (JEM). Islamabad denied his claim and has long decried similar allegations. "We will continue these conversations with the Pakistani government in private", he said.

The decision, which was announced Thursday, is meant to pressure Pakistan to help us foreign policy priorities like clamping down on the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The U.S. State Department announced the decision, saying it reflected the Trump administration's frustration that Pakistan has not done more against the two groups that Washington says use sanctuaries in Pakistan to launch attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan that have killed U.S., Afghan and other forces.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert could not provide a dollar value for the suspended assistance but said it was in addition to the $255 million in military aid the U.S. has already put on hold. "We simply can not ignore the terror sanctuaries (in Pakistan) if we're going to make progress in Afghanistan", he said, adding that "the president has been very clear about his commitment to stabilising Afghanistan".

She said some of the aid could still be permitted if Islamabad takes decisive action against the groups.

However, Reuters learned that in addition to the $255 million in foreign military financing (FMF) used to purchase American military hardware, the U.S.is also expected to withhold at least $900 million in coalition support funds (CSF), which reimburse Pakistan for counter-terrorism activities. "The ones without them did not fare so well", he said. The suspended amount include US$ 255 million in the Foreign Military Funding (FMF) for the fiscal year 2016 as mandated by Congress. None of that money has yet been disbursed.

In response, Pakistan summoned the US ambassador to Pakistan late Monday to lodge a protest, saying Pakistan has taken action against all militant groups without any discrimination and its sacrifices are being ignored.

"There is little doubt that both are on a collision course and their bilateral relationship is set for a very rough ride if back-channel efforts are not made to address the USA concerns", said Vinay Kaura, an Indian security analyst.

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Pakistanis protest in Karachi to condemn a tweet from Donald Trump in which he said the us has "foolishly" handed the country $33 billion in aid.

That same day, an anonymous DOS official explained to reporters that the Trump administration is only freezing the aid.

A Pakistani motorcyclist rides over images of President Donald Trump and a US flag on a street in Lahore. Speaking to media, the official said, "The US does have a range of tools that we're looking at beyond just the security assistance issue to deal with Pakistan and to try to convince it to crack down on the Taliban and Haqqani network".

"Arbitrary deadlines, unilateral pronouncements and shifting goalposts are counterproductive in addressing common threats", the Foreign Office said in a statement in Islamabad earlier.

"Pakistan never fought for money but for peace", army spokesman Major-General Asif Ghafoor told VOA.

The US aid suspension was announced days after President Trump tweeted that the US had foolishly given Pakistan 33 billion dollars in aid over 15 years and was rewarded with "nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools".

Trump's frustrations are shared by some USA lawmakers, who accused Pakistan of playing a double game by allowing militant groups sanctuary - which Islamabad denies - despite promising to crack down on them. It was therefore not unexpected to now see Haqqani show little sympathy for Pakistan as he is being asked to respond to Trump's tweet about his former homeland. "Their, in essence, support of the Haqqani network, or ... allowing them to have safe harbour in their country when they're the greatest threat to our men and women in uniform". Khan has called for Pakistan to expel some US diplomatic personnel and cut off supply routes for the USA -led coalition forces from the port city of Karachi to landlocked Afghanistan, as well as close its airspace to USA forces.

"No, I'm not concerned", Mattis told reporters on Friday at the Pentagon when asked about the prospect of Pakistan shutting down what the military calls Ground Lines of Communication, or GLOCs.

"Both Beijing and Islamabad have the ability to build a joint naval and air facility in Pakistan. How do you keep supplying the ANSF?"

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