USA cancels Pakistan aid over militant record

Robert Wilkie

"Unfortunately, recent reporting has distorted the details of the Coalition Support Fund [CSF] by stating several things out of context". Washington announced plans in January to suspend up to roughly $2 billion in US security assistance to Pakistan.

At the time the Pentagon offered to restore funding if Pakistan took "decisive action" against the terrorist group, but Saturday's announcement officially withdrew that offer. "So, we want them to be successful", said the top U.S. official while indicating that Washington could also work with worldwide financial institutions to help boost the ailing Pakistani economy because "economy is going to be the key" to Pakistan's success.

Adopting a tougher line with an ally that U.S. President Donald Trump considers unreliable, the United States halted the disbursement of Coalition Support Funds due to Islamabad's perceived failure to take decisive action against Afghan Taliban militants operating from Pakistani soil.

To a question about options for Pakistan to get the stopped funds, Mr. Qureshi said Pakistan will talk to the US because the money was already spent by Pakistan.

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The Pakistani foreign minister said his country attaches great importance to removal of impediments to expansion of ties. Pakistan is cooperating with Beijing's "Belt and Road" initiative, but the country's financial situation remains hard .

To a question on the government's much-talked about programme of giving away 10 million jobs and five million houses, he said the prime minister has made a decision to take briefing twice in a month on progress on the first 100-day programme of the government.

Yet the U.S. has repeatedly treated this as aid, and has withheld, frozen, or outright cut the funding several times in the past.

In March, a senior USA official said that Pakistan has "done the bare minimum to appear responsive to our requests", and concerns over a lack of action by Islamabad against militant groups still persist. Cutting the money off seems an obvious step. Ali J. Siddiqui, Pakistan's ambassador to the USA, confirmed to NBC News last month that the US has also axed a long-standing military training program between the two countries.

It also believes that a Pakistani crackdown could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the long-running war in Afghanistan. It needs access to its roads and airspace to get supplies into Afghanistan.

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He has said UNRWA should be abolished and its responsibilities taken over by the main United Nations refugee agency. He said "neither the United States nor anybody else will be able to dissolve" UNRWA.

Will the U.S. strategy work?

Pakistani intelligence, a power center in Islamabad unto themselves, acts independently of government control as does the military.

Furthermore, he said that the reason behind the differences with the United States was its plan to give a role to India in Afghanistan while Islamabad and Washington were in agreement that the U.S. should leave a stable Afghanistan.

Some analysts have said there is no real way to pressure Pakistan, which believes it is more important to keep Afghanistan out of India´s orbit than to clamp down on cross-border militancy. Famous for his anti-American rhetoric, Khan also opposes much of the USA war on terror. But questions remain over how much influence he will have in a country where foreign, defence and security policies are widely seen as controlled by the powerful military.

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In the end, observers say, until the USA addresses Pakistan´s fears over India, it will not shake its support for militant proxies.

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