US senate ties $300 million aid for Pakistan to actions against Haqqani Network

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: May 24, 2016 21:42 IST
Jalaluddin Haqqani (right), the leader of the Haqqani network points to a map of Afghanistan during a visit to Pakistan. (File Photo)

A US senate panel has tied $300 million in aid to Pakistan for 2017 to its efforts to destroy the Haqqani Network, an Afghan terrorist outfit that Islamabad backs and shelters.

This aid, which is disbursed as reimbursement to US coalition partners in Afghanistan, will be cleared only against a certification to this effect by the secretary of defence, the panel proposed.

It is under discussion as a part of the legislative process to approve US military’s budget for next year, called the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), 2017.

The House of Representative has proposed $450 million under the same expense head, tying it inextricably to certification from the administration, with no recourse to waivers.

While Congress, which controls the US purse, may stipulate conditions for releasing certain expenditures, the administration ask them to be waived in the interest of national security.

The House proposes to take away that option, which the Obama administration has opposed saying it “unnecessarily complicate progress in our bilateral relationship.”

The White House has said the president will be advised to veto the bill if it was presented to him with this and other clauses it listed out in a note to Congress sent on May 17.

While the administration wants the aid to proceed as usual, it signalled its own frustration, taking out Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mansour in a drone strike in Pakistan last week.

The US had thus far only targeted leading al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban figures in drone strikes in Pakistan, letting Islamabad deal with the Afghan Taliban. That has changed now.

There is mounting frustration and anger in the US with Pakistan’s patchy counterterrorism record. Officials and lawmakers have said they feel betrayed by a “duplicitous” ally.

Lawmakers had recently killed an Obama administration proposal to substantially subsidize the sale of eight new F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, demanding action against the Haqqani Network.

And it’s the Haqqani Network again, against whom the senate panel wants to see the Pakistani government take “demonstrable actions” if it wants the $300 million slated as reimbursement.

The bill proposed by the senate panel wants Islamabad to “significantly disrupt the safe haven and freedom of movement” of the Haqqani Network in Pakistan, prevent it from using Pakistani territory as safe haven, and “actively coordinate” with Afghanistan to restrict the terrorists along the border.

The senate has set aside $800 million for Pakistan, with $300 million tied to the Haqqani Network. The House has proposed $900 million, with $450 million tacked to the terrorist group.

A final legislation reconciling these amounts to one acceptable to both chambers will then go to President Barack Obama, who can veto it if it still contains objectionable clauses, or sign it.

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