US Suspends Over $2 Bn Assistance to Pak Over Terror Groups
US State Dept also said that they have concerns about ‘anti-India groups’ like LeT and JeM.
Toughening its stance, the United States on Friday suspended about $2 billion security assistance to Pakistan for failing to take "decisive actions" against terror groups like the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network operating from its soil.
The suspended amount includes $255 million in Foreign Military Funding (FMF) for the fiscal year 2016 as mandated by the US Congress. In addition, the Department of Defense has suspended the entire $900 million of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) money to Pakistan for the fiscal year 2017 and other unspent money from previous fiscal years.
Department of Defence Spokesperson Lt Col Mike Andrews told PTI that the National Defense Authorisation Act 2017 provides up to $900 million for Pakistan in the CSF.
"At this stage all Fiscal Year 17 CSF have been suspended, so that’s the entire amount of $900 million," Andrews said.
Of these funds, $400 million can only be released if the Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis certifies that the Pakistan government has taken specific actions against the Haqqani Network.
‘Have Concerns About the Ability of Anti-India Groups’: US
Addressing a press briefing, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert spoke not only about Pakistan’s failure to take decisive action against Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, but also said that they have concerns about ‘anti-India groups’ like Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.
We have concerns about their nuclear program; we have concerns about the ability of anti-India groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed to fundraise and operate; and Hafiz Saeed, the head of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, was recently released from house arrest.US State Department spokesperson
"We're hoping that Pakistan will see this as an incentive, not a punishment," a State Department official told Reuters.
Civilian development and economic assistance to Pakistan is not affected.
The State Department also accused Pakistan of severe violations of religious freedom.
It announced that it was placing Pakistan on a special watch list, pursuant to 2016 legislation. The step does not carry any serious consequences.
Pakistan's embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Trump’s ‘Lies & Deceit’ Jibe
The development comes days after US President Donald Trump slammed Pakistan as a 'safe haven' for terrorists and wrote on Twitter that the "United States had foolishly given more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years."
Pakistan had on Tuesday called Trump's tweet "completely incomprehensible" and at odds with recent "trust-building" visits by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Mattis. It accused the US of scapegoating Pakistan for its own failure to bring peace to Afghanistan.
Trump's tweet also resulted in protests against the US government on the streets of Pakistan.
Thursday's announcement by the US State Department follows a trend of decreased funding over the years by the US to Pakistan. The United States has cut both military and economic aid to Pakistan sharply in recent years.
‘It Is Time We Stop Sending American Taxpayer Money to Pakistan’: US Senator
A top US Senator, Rand Paul, announced on Friday that he will introduce a bill to eliminate US aid to Pakistan and set that money aside for infrastructure funds to build roads in the US.
"I'm introducing a bill to end aid to Pakistan in the coming days. My bill will take the money that would have gone to Pakistan, and put it in an infrastructure fund to build roads and bridges here at home," the Republican Senator said on Friday.
"Pakistan Could Retaliate in Problematic Ways"
US assistance to Pakistan, which rose sharply after the 9/11 attacks, has been declining since 2011 when American commandos killed Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan, straining relations. Pakistan has increasingly turned for economic support to northern neighbour China, which is investing tens of billions in transportation links and power generation as it extends its strategic footprint across Asia.
Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Wilson Center's South Asia program, said suspension of US security assistance to Pakistan would not torpedo relations but it was a significant step backward. He said Pakistan could fall back on Saudi Arabia and China for military supplies, but it still depends on the US for certain types of high-end equipment.
"There are considerable risks for the US because Pakistan could retaliate in ways that would be very problematic for US regional interests," he said, such as curtailing intelligence cooperation and US supply lines into Afghanistan.
"No matter what, the relationship is in a bad spot right now."
(With inputs from PTI,AP and Reuters)
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