In Trump’s new budget, Pakistan faces more US aid cuts after snub over terror safe havens

The overall assistance to Pakistan was “down about $10 million” to $351 million.

Updated: Feb 13, 2018 10:59:00

By Yashwant Raj

US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting on infrastructure with state and local officials in the State Dining Room of the White House on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO (AFP Photo)

The US on Monday further tightened the fund squeeze on Pakistan, a one-time ally now out of favour for supporting terrorism, proposing to lower overall aid given through the state department in the 2019 budget, including a scaled down security-related aid component.

The overall assistance to Pakistan was “down about $10 million” to $351 million, said Hari Sastry, who is with the office of US foreign assistance resources, at a state department briefing.

The White House released its fiscal 2019 budget on Monday, proposing a big cut for the state department.

Read: US suspending military aid to Pakistan over terrorism may not inflict big pain

The proposed security assistance of $80 million for 2019 — under foreign military financing (FMF) that allows a recipient country to buy US military equipment with American aid — was also down from $100 million in the 2018, continuing the slide from $296 million in 2012.

Pakistan won’t have unfettered access even to this reduced amount. “The implementation of FY 2019 FMF resources for Pakistan is contingent on Pakistan taking appropriate action to expand cooperation in areas where interest converge and to address areas of national divergence, in line with the administration’s South Asia strategy,” the state department told congress in a procedural note.

Read: US suspends $2 bn security aid to Pak until it takes action against terrorists

The assistance would be used to advance US national security interests in Pakistan by supporting that country’s capacity to improve stability and security and “fight terrorism, including through the elimination of safe havens for terrorist and militant organizations”, it said.

The Trump administration suspended roughly $2 billion in security-related aid, including foreign military financing, an expense head that took a 20% cut in the present budget, in January citing exactly the same conditions: Pakistan must act decisively against terrorists sheltering on its soil.

President Donald Trump preemptively signed off on that decision, marking a new toughening of US position, with the now famous January 1 tweet: “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. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan with little help. No more!”

A bulk of this $33-billion aid was security related, including an expense head called Coalition Support Fund, which is the money the US pays to countries like Pakistan as a reimbursement for supporting counter-terrorism operations required by the US.

In short, Pakistan was billing the US for the operations it carried out against the terrorists it raised and has used as leverage in Afghanistan, which has recently been hit by a renewed wave of terror attacks.

Afghans have blamed Pakistan for the attacks.

The tightening of assistance to Pakistan, a client state of the US that feels aggrieved by cuts in aid, as proposed in the 2019 state department budget comes as a further proof the Trump administration remaining leery of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism measures.

First Published: Feb 13, 2018 10:58:29


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