Published: Mon, September 03, 2018
World News | By Laverne Osborne

United States continues to press Pakistan to 'indiscriminately' target terror groups

United States continues to press Pakistan to 'indiscriminately' target terror groups

Officials in Pakistan are downplaying the significance of a USA military plan to cancel $300 million assistance to the country for not doing enough against terrorist groups inside its borders. However, Pakistan denies this charge.

With the latest move, the Department of Defence has reprogrammed 800 million dollar CSF destined for Pakistan as US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis did not give the necessary certification to Congress that the country has taken strong steps against terrorist groups like the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

The announcement came weeks after Pakistan's new prime minister Imran Khan took office amid concerns he would remain tolerant of terror groups including the Taliban and the notorious Haqqani network.

Imran Khan's new government offered no immediate response but the prime minister has called for "more balanced" relations with the USA and is seeking to shift Pakistan's foreign policy away from a "clientalistic" relationship with the United States, whose drone attacks and war on terror he blames for fostering extremism within Pakistan, towards allies closer in the region.

Over the weekend, the Pentagon announced that they have cancelled $300 million in military aid to Pakistan.

Pakistan has received more than $33 billion in USA assistance since 2002, including more than $14 billion in CSF, a US Defence Department program to reimburse allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-insurgency operations.

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Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that though expected, the decision had still irked Islamabad as Pakistan wanted to keep the "atmosphere healthy" before Pompeo's visit.

A description of the call released by the State Department said Pompeo raised "the importance of Pakistan taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan and its vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process". Pentagon Spokesman Kone Faulkner said the United States military will aim to spend the money on other urgent priorities before the funds expire on September 30, 2018.

Though the funds have been withheld this year, Pakistan could again be eligible next year for CSF, with United States officials saying that Islamabad could win back that support if it changed its behaviour. On announcing the initial suspension, Trump accused Islambad of "nothing but lies & deceit" in a widely cited tweet.

Pakistan is due to decide whether to seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a bid to aid its ailing economy. Meanwhile, scores of army officials have also been cut from coveted training and educational programmes in the US, Reuters reported this month, a blow to one of the hallmarks of a longstanding military alliance.

Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's impromptu visit to Lahore in December 2015 to meet his then Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif, Sidhu said PM Modi visited there without any invitation, and that was because he understands "talks are the only way (forward)". In his victory speech, he said he wanted "mutually beneficial" relations with Washington.

Qureshi said that the upcoming visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other high officials was a "window of opportunity".

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