WASHINGTON: Pakistan and the US have been at odds over Pakistan’s counter-terrorism strategies near the Afghan border and, hence, the US has no plans of lifting the freeze on coalition funds for Pakistan, US officials stated on Tuesday.
According to a recent article published in Foreign Policy, the Trump administration says Pakistan has not done enough to rein in the Haqqani network, which is blamed for lethal attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan against civilians and, US and Afghan security forces. The impasse showed no signs of easing up even after Defence Secretary James Mattis visited Islamabad on Monday.
“We did not talk about the Coalition Support Fund,” Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry told an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Tuesday.
In July, James Mattis suspended payments to Pakistan from the Coalition Support Fund, which the United States uses to reimburse countries for counter-terrorism operations. The Pentagon said it would not resume payments until the defence secretary could certify that Islamabad had taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network and other militants who cross into Afghanistan from alleged sanctuaries in Pakistan.
The following month, US President Donald Trump threatened further cuts to assistance to Pakistan over allegations that the government harboured Taliban and other militant groups operating in Afghanistan.
In Trump’s talks with Pakistan’s political, military, and intelligence leaders, Mattis said Pakistan had a crucial role to play in promoting peace talks for Afghanistan and “reiterated that Pakistan must redouble its efforts to confront militants and terrorists operating within the country,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
Lt Col Michael Andrews, a Pentagon spokesman, said payments to Pakistan from the fund are still frozen, and that “Secretary Mattis has not yet made a decision on the certification required” by Congress to release the $400 million in counter-terrorism funds for Pakistan in fiscal 2017.
Another $650 million in payments that Pakistan would have received for the prior two fiscal years have already been “reprogrammed and are no longer available to Pakistan,” Andrews further added saying.
The suspension may not be lifted for six months at the earliest, when fighting resumes in the summer months. US officials say they will not be able to assess if Pakistan has made progress and fulfilled its promises to prevent the Haqqanis from crossing into Afghanistan until then.
The freeze on the reimbursement fund comes amid increasingly sharp rhetoric directed at Pakistan from the Trump administration, which has warned Islamabad it must take more action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani fighters who are able to regroup and rearm in safe havens in Pakistan.
In a speech in August presenting his war strategy for Afghanistan, Trump accused Pakistan of hosting “agents of chaos” and said that its approach would have to change “immediately.” His fierce criticism sparked anti-US protests in Islamabad.