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Pentagon cancels aid to Pakistan over record on militants


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WASHINGTON (Reuters): The US military said it has made a final decision to cancel $300 million in aid to Pakistan that had been suspended over Islamabad’s perceived failure to take decisive action against militants, in a new blow to deteriorating ties.

The so-called Coalition Support Funds were part of a broader suspension in aid to Pakistan announced by President Donald Trump at the start of the year, when he accused Pakistan of rewarding past assistance with “nothing but lies & deceit.”

The Trump administration says Islamabad is granting safe haven to insurgents who are waging a 17-year-old war in neighbouring Afghanistan, a charge Pakistan denies.

But US officials had held out the possibility that Pakistan could win back that support if it changed its behaviour.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, in particular, had an opportunity to authorise $300 million in CSF funds through this summer – if he saw concrete Pakistani actions to go after insurgents. Mattis chose not to, a US official told Reuters.

“Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy the remaining $300 (million) was reprogrammed,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said.

Faulkner said the Pentagon aimed to spend the $300 million on “other urgent priorities” if approved by Congress. He said another $500 million in CSF was stripped by Congress from Pakistan earlier this year, to bring the total withheld to $800 million.

The disclosure came ahead of an expected visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the top US military officer, General Joseph Dunford, to Islamabad. Mattis told reporters on Tuesday that combating militants would be a “primary part of the discussion.”

Experts on the Afghan conflict, America’s longest war, argue that militant safe havens in Pakistan have allowed Taliban-linked insurgents in Afghanistan a place to plot deadly strikes and regroup after ground offensives.

The Pentagon’s decision showed that the United States, which has sought to change Pakistani behaviour, is still increasing pressure on Pakistan’s security apparatus.

It also underscored that Islamabad has yet to deliver the kind of change sought by Washington.

 


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