Trump resumes Pak military aid programme with eye on Afghan peace talks
The Trump administration on Friday announced the resumption of a training programme for Pakistan military officials that had been suspended in 2018 along with all security-related assistance as punishment for its continued refusal to undertake sustained and verifiable counter-terrorism measures.
The resumption of the relatively low-dollar-value programme was seen by South Asia experts as a sop to the Pakistani military in exchange for its continued support for the Afghanistan peace talks that are expected to restart shortly after being ended abruptly by President Donald Trump last September.
The announcement of the resumption of the programme came in a tweet from the state department that was signed off with initials AGW, which is Alice G Wells, the deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asia. “To strengthen mil2mil (military to military) cooperation on shared priorities & advance US national security, @POTUS authorized the resumption of International Military Education and Training #IMET for Pakistan,” the tweet read, making clear the resumption of the programme was instructed by President Trump.
It added, as noted by Pakistan skeptics and critics, “The overall security assistance suspension for Pakistan remains in effect.”
President Trump ordered a suspension of all security related aid — close to $2 billion in carry-over and current appropriations — to Pakistani in January 2018, presaged by a tweet in which he had accused Pakistan of repaying US aid and assistance with “lies and deceit” on counter-terrorism measures.
The United States has given Pakistan billions of dollars for its cooperation in the war against terrorism since the start of the post-9/11 war against terrorism, but been frustrated by Pakistan’s continued support of terrorists it has hosted and used to further its foreign policy goals in Afghanistan, where they have fought and killed US personnel, and in India.
The IMET programme was also suspended subsequent to the security aid, delivering a blow directly to Pakistani military this time, many of whose senior leaders had undergone mid-career training under this programme and who had come to see it as a bridge to US military, according to people who have dealt with it.
A leading South Asia expert said, “The Trump administration wants to reassure Pakistan’s military that it can benefit if it fulfils American expectations of Pakistani support in getting a settlement in Afghanistan.” And that was a message intended to keep the Pakistani army engaged in the Afghanistan peace talks that are set to be resumed shortly after President Trump pulled the plug on it abruptly last September.
A state department spokesperson said, in response to a request for more information about the resumption of the programme, that the “President’s security assistance suspension announced in January 2018 authorised narrow exceptions for programs that support vital US national security interests.
“The Administration has approved the resumption of the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program for Pakistan as one such exception, subject to Congressional approval,” the spokesperson said further, adding, “IMET serves as an effective means to strengthen long term military-to-military relationships critical to US national security goals.”