US suspends at least $1.19b in aid to Pakistan

Pakistani demonstrators shouting anti-US slogans and burning the US flag during a protest in Quetta on Thursday after the Trump administration threatened to cut off aid to Pakistan.
Pakistani demonstrators shouting anti-US slogans and burning the US flag during a protest in Quetta on Thursday after the Trump administration threatened to cut off aid to Pakistan.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Pakistani demonstrators shouting anti-US slogans and burning the US flag during a protest in Quetta on Thursday after the Trump administration threatened to cut off aid to Pakistan.
Pakistani demonstrators shouting anti-US slogans and burning the US flag during a protest in Quetta on Thursday after the Trump administration threatened to cut off aid to Pakistan.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Move aims to press Islamabad to do more against militant groups

WASHINGTON • The United States said yesterday it was suspending at least US$900 million (S$1.19 billion) in security assistance to Pakistan until it takes action against the Afghan Taleban and the Haqqani network militant groups.

The decision was denounced by Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry as “counterproductive” in a carefully worded response in which it said it was “engaged” with US officials and awaiting further details.

The State Department said the US decision reflected the Trump administration’s frustration that Islamabad has not done more against the two groups, which have long used sanctuaries in Pakistan to launch attacks in Afghanistan that have killed American, Afghan and other forces.

The department declined to say exactly how much aid would be suspended, saying the numbers were still being calculated.

US officials said two main categories of aid are affected: foreign military financing (FMF), which funds purchases of US military hardware, training and services, and coalition support funds (CSF), which reimburse Pakistan for counter-terrorism operations.

They said they could make exceptions to fund critical US national security priorities.

CSF funds, which fall under Defence Department authority, are covered by the freeze, said Pentagon spokesman Patrick Evans. He added that Congress authorised up to US$900 million in such money for Pakistan for fiscal year 2017, which ended on Sept 30. None of that has yet been disbursed.

The freeze also covers US$255 million in FMF for fiscal year 2016, which falls under State Department authority and whose suspension has already been announced.

INCENTIVE, NOT THREAT

We're hoping that Pakistan will see this as an incentive, not a punishment.

A SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL

US 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.

“Our hope is that they will see this as a further indication of this administration’s immense frustration with the trajectory of our relationship and that they need to be serious about taking the steps we have asked in order to put it on more solid footing,” a senior State Department official told reporters.

“We’re hoping that Pakistan will see this as an incentive, not a punishment,” he added.

The Trump administration briefed Congress on its decision on Wednesday. Islamabad has long rejected accusations that it fails to tackle the militants battling the Kabul government and foreign forces from sanctuaries on the Pakistani side of the border.

It is largely shrugging off the proposed US aid cuts but frets that Washington could take more drastic measures to deter what it sees as Pakistan’s support for the Taleban.

Without referring to the decision directly, Pakistan warned yesterday that “arbitrary deadlines, unilateral pronouncements and shifting goalposts are counterproductive in addressing common threats”.

Emerging threats such as the growing presence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group in the region make cooperation more important than ever, it added.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2018, with the headline 'US suspends at least $1.19b in aid to Pakistan'. Print Edition | Subscribe