FRONT PAGE: America claims Pakistan is not doing enough to target Afghan Taliban and Haqqani group bases

AMERICA OUTLINES GUIDELINES AFTER HALTING SECURITY AID PAY-OUTS

THE US has told Pakistan what it must do if it wants Washing­ton to resume paying out hun­dreds of millions of dollars in security aid, the Pentagon said on Monday (8).  

“Our expectations are straight­forward,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning told re­porters. “Taliban and Haqqani leadership and attack planners should no longer be able to find safe haven or conduct operations from Pakistani soil.”  

Last week, president Donald Trump froze payments from the “coalition support fund” for Paki­stan, worth $900 million, saying Pakistan is not doing enough to target Afghan Taliban and Haqqani group bases.  

The coalition funding is set aside to refund Pakistani spending on counter-terrorist operations.  

Also in question is almost $1 billion of US military equipment that has allowed Pakistan access to advanced military technology.  

“The United States has con­veyed to Pakistan specific and concrete steps that it could take,” Manning said. “We stand ready to work with Pakistan to combat terrorist groups without distinc­tion. We will continue these con­versations with the Pakistani gov­ernment in private.”  

Pentagon officials are watch­ing to see if Pakistan is going to retaliate against the US by cutting supply lines to US troops from its port at Karachi into Afghanistan.  

So far, Manning said, there was no sign Islamabad was preparing to take that course of action.  

He stressed that the suspen­sion of funding was not perma­nent “at this time” and the money was not being diverted elsewhere.  

US officials believe that Paki­stan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and other military bodies have long helped fund and arm the Taliban for ideological reasons, but also to counter rising Indian influence in Afghanistan, whose government is backed by the US.  

Islamabad denies those allega­tions and has called Trump’s deci­sion to threaten funding “counter­productive.” It said last Friday (5) that US “arbitrary deadlines” and its shifting of goalposts were coun­terproductive to defeating com­mon security threats in the region.  

“We are engaged with the US administration on the issue of se­curity cooperation and await fur­ther detail,” the Pakistani foreign ministry said following the an­nouncement that Washington was suspending all military assistance, believed to be at least $900m.  

“Arbitrary deadlines, unilateral pronouncements and shifting goalposts are counterproductive in addressing common threats.”  

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 Defense Department authority, are covered by the freeze, said Pentagon spokesman Com­mander Patrick Evans, saying Congress authorised up to $900m in such money for Pakistan for fiscal year 2017, which ended September 30. None of that mon­ey has yet been disbursed.  

The freeze also covers $255m in FMF for fiscal year 2016, which falls under State Department au­thority and whose suspension has already been announced, as well as unspecified amounts of FMF that went unspent in earlier fiscal years.  

Briefing reporters, 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.”  

Pakistan 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 Taliban.  

Pakistan is worried about the influence of India in Afghanistan, and at the same time has been battling a Pakistani Taliban in­surgency that Pakistan says was largely fueled by its support for the US war on terrorism launched after the September 11, 2001, at­tacks on the US. (AFP, Reuters)