US suspends security assistance to Pakistan

2018-01-05 13:03
(Alex Wong, AFP)

(Alex Wong, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington — The United States announced on Thursday it was suspending security assistance to Pakistan for failing to take "decisive action" against Taliban militants targeting US personnel in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The State Department's declaration signalled growing frustration over Pakistan's cooperation in fighting terrorist networks.

Initially vague information on how much money and materiel was being withheld suggested the primary goal was to substantiate President Donald Trump's surprising New Year's Day tweet that accused Pakistan of playing US leaders for "fools".

Spokesperson Heather Nauert said the restrictions covered security assistance above and beyond the $255m for Pakistani purchases of American military equipment that the administration held up in August.

Nauert made clear the $255m was still blocked, and the Pentagon said the new action targets payments of so-called Coalition Support Funds that the US pays to Pakistan to reimburse it for its counterterrorism operations.

Defence spending legislation for 2017 provides for up to $900m in Coalition Support Funds, of which $400m can only be released to Pakistan if Defence Secretary Jim Mattis certifies Pakistan has taken specific actions against the Haqqani network.

None of the $900m as so far been disbursed, the Pentagon said. The last Coalition Support Funds were paid to Pakistan in March last year, provided under defence spending legislation for 2016.

On Monday, Trump said the US had "foolishly" given Pakistan more than $33bn in aid in the last 15 years and had gotten nothing in return but "lies & deceit".

He reiterated longstanding allegations that Pakistan gives "safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan".

Trump unveiled in August a South Asia strategy aimed at ending the stalemate in the US war in Afghanistan, now entering its 17th year.

Pakistan on special watch list

Nauert said that despite sustained high-level engagement with Pakistan's government, "the Taliban and Haqqani network continue to find sanctuary inside Pakistan as they plot to destabilise Afghanistan and attack US and allied personnel".

She told reporters that until Pakistan takes "decisive action" against those groups, security assistance was suspended.

Civilian development and economic assistance to Pakistan is not affected.

Also on Thursday, the State Department 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.

But on Tuesday, Pakistan called Trump's tweet "completely incomprehensible" and at odds with recent "trust-building" visits by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Mattis. It accused the US of scapegoating Pakistan for its own failure to bring peace to Afghanistan.

The haphazard nature of Thursday's announcement suggested it had been hastily arranged rather than developed through a traditional policy process.

Even after members of Congress had been notified of an impending aid suspension, White House and State Department officials were still hammering out details for who would announce it and when.

'A bad spot'

Earlier on Thursday, Mattis said the policy on military aid to Pakistan was "still being formulated".

As recently as October, Trump credited US-Pakistani cooperation for winning the release of an American woman, her Canadian husband and their children who had been held by Haqqani militants for five years.

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 Centre’s South Asia programme, 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."

Read more on:    pakistan  |  us

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.