The end of counter-terrorism assistance

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The US decision to withdraw fund presents new opportunity to Pakistan

The end of the Pakistan Counter-Insurgency Capability Fund (PCCF) by the United States (US) government marks an important turning point. The announcement has come at an inopportune time with no elected government in place in Pakistan to issue a timely response. It merely means that the next sitting government shall have one essential variable taken out when it thinks about how to continue the fight against terrorism. On the ground, the Taliban insurgency has not ended. Therefore, it suggests that the withdrawal of the fund falls in line with the overall strategy of the US to withdraw from the region in the year 2014.

A US State Department official confirmed that the “programme had begun to be wound up as early as 2012,” however he pointed to issues of “implementation.” Despite 12-years of fighting America’s war, trust between Pakistan and the US remains at a low point. However, the US administration has sent a request to Congress for continuing the Foreign Military Fund programme, which according to the State Department is “the primary way [the US will] deal with the security relationship at this point with Pakistan.” Overall assistance to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq has gone down by six per cent in the current US budget, but Pakistan would still be provided around $860 million in non-military and about $300m in military assistance. This suggests that the US shall now channel funds to the civilian sector and has the belief that Pakistan is capable of dealing with the Taliban insurgency on its own. On the other hand, former dictator Pervez Musharraf has, for the first time, admitted that his government had made a secret deal with the US to allow drone strikes in Pakistan. He claimed it was conditional on approval from “military and intelligence units” and only if “there was no time for our own military to act.” Somehow it appears that this spiraled a little out of hand.

The turf for the continuing war against the militancy is changing fast for Pakistan. The withdrawal of the PCCF represents an important change that will affect anti-terror operations badly in the short term. But no one can say this was not expected. History was bound to repeat itself as the US interest in the region diminished in 1989 after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989. The real requirement is for Pakistan to be able to stand on its own legs in the fight against terror and work with its immediate neighbours to jointly tackle terrorism. The lesson of history is a hard one on this front and it is hoped that it is not repeated once again.