WASHINGTON — The US military is seeking to reallocate $300 million in aid to Pakistan due to Islamabad’s lack of “decisive actions” in support of regional American strategy, the Pentagon said Saturday.
The US has been pushing Pakistan to crack down on militant safe havens in the country, and announced a freeze on aid at the beginning of the year that an official said could be worth almost $2 billion.
“Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy… $300M (actually $323.6M to include non-Pakistan funds) was reprogrammed by (the Defense Department) in the June/July 2018 time frame for other urgent priorities,” Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said in an email to AFP.
The Defense Department “is awaiting congressional determination on whether this reprogramming request will be approved or denied,” Faulkner said.
Pakistan has fought fierce campaigns against homegrown militant groups, and says it has lost thousands of lives and spent billions of dollars in its long war on extremism.
But US officials accuse Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups that attack Afghanistan from safe havens along the border between the two countries.
The White House believes that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and other military bodies have long helped fund and arm the Taliban for ideological reasons, but also to counter rising Indian influence in Afghanistan.
It also believes that a Pakistani crackdown could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the long-running war in Afghanistan.
US frustration has boiled over before: President Donald Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama authorized drone strikes on Pakistani safe havens and sent US commandos to kill jihadist kingpin Osama bin Laden in his Abbottabad hideout.
But Trump’s aggressive language has especially angered Pakistani officials.
“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,” Trump wrote on Twitter at the beginning of the year.
“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”
Pakistani leaders disputed the $33 billion figure, insisting that around half of the money relates to reimbursements, and the prime minister’s office accused Trump of ignoring the great sacrifices the country has made to fight extremism.
In March, a senior US 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.
“We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups,” Faulkner said.