rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » News » 'Frustrated' US suspends USD 1.66 bn security aid to Pakistan

'Frustrated' US suspends USD 1.66 bn security aid to Pakistan

November 21, 2018 10:45 IST

Trump said that the US is not paying anything to Pakistan because 'that's what they've done to help us. Nothing'. 

IMAGE: Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi meets Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his visit to the US. Photograph: Kind courtesy @statedeptspox/Twitter

The United States has suspended USD 1.66 billion in security assistance to Pakistan after President Donald Trump's directive, the Pentagon has said, in what experts believe is a strong signal of American frustration.

The Pentagon's statement came days after President Trump said that Pakistan does not do "a damn thing" for the US, alleging that its government had helped al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden hide near its garrison city of Abbottabad.

 

"USD 1.66 billion of security assistance to Pakistan is suspended," Col Rob Manning, spokesman of the department of defence, told reporters in an e-mail response to questions on Tuesday.

No further breakdown of the suspended security assistance to Pakistan was provided.

According to David Sedney, who served as deputy assistant secretary defence for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia during the previous Obama administration, the blocking of military assistance to Pakistan, which began in January this year, is a strong signal of American frustration.

"But, so far Pakistan has taken no serious steps to address the core US concern -- that Pakistan tolerates and often encourages groups which use violence against Pakistan's neighbours," Sedney said.

"Pakistan's leaders have promised cooperation, but beyond words, serious cooperation has not happened, therefore President Trump is frustrated and so are most Americans," he said in response to a question.

"This frustration does not ignore the suffering that Pakistani people have undergone. It just asks Pakistan to recognise that it should act to help stop the suffering of others," said the Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank.

Previously, Sedney was at the department of state and the National Security Council, as well as acting president of American University of Afghanistan. He was part of the Pentagon when Laden was killed in a raid by US commandoes in Pakistan's Abbottabad.

Over the last few days, Trump has said that people in Pakistan knew about the presence of Laden.

"I agree with the views of Carlotta Gall of the New York Times who reported in her book 'The Wrong Enemy' that a very small group of very senior Pakistani military leaders knew about Laden's presence in Pakistan. I have not seen any evidence that his presence in Abbottabad was widely known by many in Pakistan," Sedney said.

While Pakistan has suffered terribly from terrorism by Islamic extremists, Islamabad has also enabled extremist groups that attack its neighbours, he observed.

After years of dithering, in recent years, Pakistan's security forces have moved strongly against the extremists that threaten the Pakistani state, Sedney said.

"What the US seeks, what President Trump is asking for, is for Pakistan to take the same kind of measures against the Taliban, Lashkhar-e-Taiba and against all groups in Pakistan that threaten Pakistan's neighbours," he said.

"But, we still see the Taliban moving weapons, fighters and money through Pakistan. We still see Taliban commanders taking refuge in Pakistan, keeping their families in Pakistan, holding meetings and conducting training in Pakistan and shipping explosives from Pakistan into Afghanistan," Sedney alleged, adding that leaders of sanctioned organisations acting freely in Pakistan and speaking publicly in favour of violence.

If Pakistan took some strong measures against the Taliban, peace would come to Afghanistan quickly, he said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has roped in former top American diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad for peace talks with the Taliban. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan would benefit from a huge "peace dividend", he asserted.

"Similarly, if Pakistan took strong measures against groups which act against India, Pakistan would harvest huge economic benefits from better economic ties with India," Sedney added.

Ties between the US and Pakistan strained after Trump, while announcing his Afghanistan and South Asia policy in August last year, hit out at Pakistan for providing safe havens to "agents of chaos" that kill Americans in Afghanistan and warned Islamabad that it has "much to lose" by harbouring terrorists.

In September, the Trump administration cancelled USD 300 million in military aid to Islamabad for not doing enough against terror groups like the Haqqani Network and the Taliban active on its soil.

'Won't pay Pak as it has done nothing for US'

President Donald Trump has reiterated that the USD 1.3 billion in aid to Pakistan will remain suspended until the country acts against militant safe heavens inside its territory.

"I want Pakistan to help us. We're no longer paying USD 1.3 billion to Pakistan. We're paying them nothing because that's what they've done to help us. Nothing," Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday before leaving for his private Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the Thanksgiving holidays.

Over the last few days, Trump has accused Pakistan of not helping the US in its fight against terrorism.

In an interview to Fox News over the weekend, Trump said that people in Pakistan knew that Laden was living in a mansion near their garrison city of Abbottabad, but they did not tell the US and kept on accepting billions of dollars in aid.

"And I cut those payments off a long time ago. We're not paying Pakistan any money because they're not helping us at all and we'll see where it all goes," Trump said.

Early this year, Trump announced to stop all security assistance to Pakistan.

"I hope to have a good relationship with Pakistan," said Trump, indicating that the relationship between the two countries can come back on track if Pakistan took action against terrorist groups and their safe havens.

"But right now, we're paying Pakistan nothing. I cut them off. They were getting USD 1.3 billion a year. They're not getting anything now," Trump asserted.

However, former Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, said Trump might be incorrect in saying that Pakistan has not done anything for the US.

Over the decades, Pakistan has helped the United States with some of its policy objectives, he said.

"He is right in noting that Pakistan has offered tactical cooperation in return for aid while at the same time undermined the strategic US objectives," Haqqani said.

Pakistani leaders, he said, are being disingenuous in describing the US as "ungrateful".

Americans have provided over USD 43 billion in military and economic assistance since 1954, helped build Pakistan's conventional military capability, and bailed Pakistan out of both economic and political crises on several occasions, he said.

Haqqani, who is the director for South and Central Asia at the prestigious Hudson Institute think-tank in Washington DC, said Islamabad would continue to be tempted to go back to old transactional patterns, but not Washington.

"It is the Americans who are likely to be less interested in returning to what I describe in my book on the subject as 'Magnificent Delusions.' Not only do Pakistan's ambitions in Afghanistan conflict with the US plans but the two countries strongly disagree about China's expanding influence in Asia," he said.

Observing that only a strategic rethink on the part of Pakistan can lead to a reset in US-Pakistan ties, Haqqani said until then, occasional twitter spats and "we paid a heavy price for being your ally" statements will continue to characterise the unusual relationship.

Lalit K Jha
© Copyright 2018 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.