US holds back Pak military aid over insufficient action against Haqqani group
The decision comes as President Donald Trump’s administration is exploring potentially hardening its approach toward Pakistan to crack down on militants launching strikes in neighbouring Afghanistan.Updated: Jul 22, 2017 07:41 IST
In another sign that the Trump administration was taking a tough line on Islamabad’s counterterrorism efforts, the Pentagon said on Friday it had decided not to pay Pakistan the remainder of military reimbursements earmarked for 2016 over its failure to do enough against the Haqqani Network.
“The funds could not be released to the Government of Pakistan at this time because the (defence) secretary could not certify that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani Network per the requirement in the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act,” Adam Stump, a Pentagon spokesman, told Hindustan Times in a statement.
Pakistan was to be paid $900 million as military reimbursement in 2016 under the Coalition Support Fund for its support of the US-led international forces in Afghanistan. Payments, however, are tied to a certification the Pentagon must give Congress about Islamabad’s actions against the Haqqani Network.
Of this amount, it had already been paid $550 million. But according to Pentagon, Pakistan had been denied an amount of $300 million earlier, which had not been reported. Defence secretary James Mattis’s certification was needed for the release of the remaining $50 million, which he refused, blocking the payment.
“In our discussions with Pakistani officials, we continue to stress that it is in the interest of Pakistan to eliminate all safe havens and reduce the operational capacity of all militant organisations that pose a threat to US and Pakistani interests as well as regional stability,” Stump said in the statement.
This is not the first time Pakistan was denied payment under this head by the US — the last time was by the Obama administration, when then defence secretary Ash Carter refused to certify that Pakistan had done enough against the Haqqani Network, which operates from its soil.
On Thursday, the State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism for 2016 had retained Pakistan on its list of countries that provide safe haven to terrorists.
The report, the first under the Trump administration, said along the lines of previous years’ reports that Islamabad was not doing enough against the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, the two groups behind most cross-border terrorist attacks in India.
The withholding of funds now shows a hardening of Trump administration’s position on Pakistan, as has been forcefully advocated by experts and past and present officials, including a report earlier this year co-authored by Lisa Curtis, a member of Trump’s national security team who was then an expert with the Heritage Foundation.
Pakistan is slated to get a similar amount of $900 million as military reimbursement under the Compensatory Support Fund in 2017, of which $400 million is tied to a certification to Congress about its actions against the Haqqani Network.
It has received $14 billion under this head since 2002.
First Published: Jul 21, 2017 20:01 IST