Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The Pentagon has canceled $300 million in military assistance to Pakistan due to the country’s failure to prevent Taliban insurgents from staging attacks in Afghanistan from bases inside Pakistani territory.
The cancellation underscores deep concerns by the United States that Pakistan has yet to deliver the kind of results sought by Washington. It’s’ also seen as a calibrated, incremental ratcheting up of pressure on Pakistan to actually do something.
The Pentagon’s action puts immense pressure on the new Pakistani government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan (who is less than hospitable to the U.S.) to take action Washington will approve of.
Beset by a weakening economy, Pakistan is faced with the lose-lose situation of seeking more aid from China (which will anger the U.S.), or requesting a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The U.S., however, is the largest IMF donor and might attach strings to any IMF aid to Pakistan.
This “final” decision to withhold the Coalition Support Funds (CSF), however, can still be overturned should Pakistan change this behavior. Pakistan will get a chance to make its case for receiving the aid when it hosts a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Marine General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said combating Islamic militants will be a “primary part of the discussion.” Mattis could still have authorized the disbursement of the $300 million if Pakistan convinced him it had indeed taken concrete action against the insurgents. Mattis chose not to, said a U.S. official.
“Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy the remaining $300 (million) was reprogrammed,” said Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Kone Faulkner.
Col Faulkner also said the Pentagon plans to spend the $300 million on “other urgent priorities” if approved by Congress. He said another $500 million in CSF was stripped by Congress from Pakistan earlier this year, to bring the total withheld to $800 million.
CSF is a U.S. Defense Department program to reimburse allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-insurgency operations. The CSF suspension is part of a much larger cut in aid to Pakistan announced by the United States at the start of the year. The Trump administration claims Pakistan continues to grant safe haven to Taliban insurgents that are waging a 17-year-old war in Afghanistan. As can be expected, Pakistan denies the charge.
Military experts said that Taliban safe havens in Pakistan have allowed Taliban fighters in Afghanistan a refuge from which they can plot attacks and regroup after offensives.
Pakistan has received more than $33 billion in U.S. assistance since 2002, including more than $14 billion in CSF.
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