The US military is seeking to reallocate $300 million in aid to Pakistan due to Islamabad’s lack of “decisive actions” in support of regional American strategy, the Pentagon said on Saturday.
The US has been pushing Pakistan to crack down on alleged militant safe havens in the country, Islamabad denies any safe havens on its soil, and announced a freeze on aid at the beginning of the year that an official said could be worth almost $2 billion.
“Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy… $300m (actually $323.6m to include non-Pakistan funds) was reprogrammed by the Defense Department in the June/July 2018 time frame for other urgent priorities,” Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said in an email to AFP.
The US defence department “is awaiting a congressional determination on whether this reprogramming request will be approved or denied”, Faulkner said. The move comes ahead of Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Joseph F. Dunford’s visit to Islamabad next week.
They are also scheduled to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan. In their talks with Pakistani officials, the delegation will “make very clear what we have to do, all of our nations, in meeting our common foe, the terrorists,” US Defence Secretary James Mattis had said earlier. “And make that a primary part of the discussion.”
Pakistan has fought fierce campaigns against homegrown militant groups and says it has lost thousands of lives and spent billions of dollars in its long war on extremism.
But US officials accuse Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups that attack Afghanistan from alleged safe havens along the border between the two countries.
Hours after the US military announced that it was suspending $300 million in ‘aid’ to Pakistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Sunday that the matter would be taken up during Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s upcoming visit to the country.
Qureshi clarified that the money blocked by the US military was part of reimbursement for the loss of lives and financial losses Pakistan suffered while leading the fight against terrorism.
“And this [deal] was done even before this government came into being,” he added. Pompeo and the top US military officer, General Joseph Dunford, are scheduled to visit Islamabad on September 5.
“We will sit and discuss this with him [Pompeo]. We will try to improve bilateral ties between the two countries. We will listen to him and present our point of view to him as well,” said the foreign minister.
Blaming the previous PML-N government of the current state of bilateral ties with the US, Qureshi said, “The last government had no engagement, no dialogue [with the US administration] … in fact there was an almost total breakdown of talks. But we will try to revive the talks.”
Meanewhile, senior politician Mushahid Hussain Syed on Sunday said US decision to cancel $300 million in aid to Pakistan could undermine Secretary of State Mike Pompeop’s visit to Islamabad.
Reacting to Pentagon’s decision, Hussain in a Twitter post, called it an attempt to placate India as part of Pompeo’s efforts to solidify India-US front against China. He also rejected the notion that the amount cancelled by the Pentagon was aid to Islamabad, saying Coalition Support Fund is the money owed to Pakistan by the United States.