United States suspends security aid to Pakistan over militant groups

Frederick Owens
January 10, 2018

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

"What the U.S.is doing now is not good for its policy against terrorism and for a lasting peace in this region", she said, adding that Pakistan has always "played a vital role in the war on terror".

In a very aggressive TV interview Pakistan's foreign minister Khawaja Asif accused United States of betrayal.

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 USA has already put on hold.

Both the US action and Trump's remarks have upset many in Pakistan. He said Pakistan could fall back on Saudi Arabia and China for military supplies, but it still depends on the U.S. for certain types of high-end equipment.

The editorial said: "Almost every military flight into Afghanistan goes through Pakistani airspace".

According to the daily, the State Bank of Pakistan's statement "may not be a dramatic policy change, but the timing made the move significant".

"Our hope is that they will see this as a further indication of this administration's enormous frustration with the trajectory of our relationship and that they need to be serious about taking the steps we asked in order to put it on a more solid footing", the State Department Official said.

Also on Friday, a senior Trump administration official told journalists in Washington that the suspension would cost Pakistan an estimated $2 billion in military funding and equipment during the current and next fiscal years. Nauert said that despite sustained high-level engagement with Pakistan's government, "the Taliban and Haqqani network continue to find sanctuary inside Pakistan as they plot to destabilize Afghanistan and attack United States and allied personnel".

However, there will be exemptions, and officials refused to put a figure on how much Pakistan will lose out on if it fails to cooperate. In fact, Pakistan encouraged Americans to fear the worst outcome: a rupture in the state security apparatus that would allow terrorists to get their hands on Pakistani nuclear know-how, fissile materials, or weapons-even as Pakistan used US funds to invest in such assets along the way.

"So they know exactly what it is that we've asked of them", the official added. "Pakistan shall continue its honest efforts in [the] best interest of Pakistan and peace", the army spokesman said.

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The tension between the two governments was evident during a meeting between Asif and national security adviser H.R. McMaster in October at the White House, Asif said in Thursday's TV interview.

Mr. Mattis said he did not foresee a situation of Pakistan blocking access for American troop movement and supplies for Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials say they have received $14 billion and that Washington still owes the country $9 billion. The foreign minister responded that his country had little trust in the United States as well.

On Thursday, the Trump administration also accused Pakistan of severe violations of religious freedom in a further sign of deteriorating relations.

On Friday, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry rejected the designation, saying it was not based on objective criteria. "The statements from the USA leaders are contrary to the facts", Asif said. But after September 11, 2001, the relationship was transformed overnight.

In August, while unveiling his new South Asia strategy, Trump had accused Pakistan of giving "safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror", and said the time had come "for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilisation, order, and to peace". However, the official refrained from divulging any of the options that the administration is considering against Pakistan.

Prominent among the suspended amount include $255 million in Foreign Military Funding (FMF) for the fiscal year 2016 as mandated by the Congress.

According to another senior administration official, as part of the latest decision, the U.S. will now not deliver military equipment or transfer security related funds to Pakistan unless required by law. We also must simultaneously remain engaged with the US, Europe, Iran, Afghanistan and other stakeholders in the effort to secure stabilisation.

She told reporters that until Pakistan takes "decisive action" against those groups, security assistance was suspended.

Gowen reported from New Delhi.

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