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US withholds aid to Pakistan over ‘insufficient’ counterterrorism action

US withholds aid to Pakistan over ‘insufficient’ counterterrorism action

Washington: The Pentagon has said it will not give Pakistan the remainder of a key US military reimbursement fund allotted to the country for 2016 due to Islamabad’s insufficient counterterrorism action.

The Pentagon announced the move to withhold $50 million in “Coalition Support Funds” on Friday, saying it had determined Pakistan had not taken “sufficient action” against the Haqqani network, the Taliban offshoot responsible for numerous attacks in neighboring Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported.

“This decision does not reduce the significance of the sacrifices that the Pakistani military has undertaken over previous years,” said Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump in the statement.

For fiscal 2016, $900 million were marked for Pakistan, $550 million of which Islamabad had already received. However, before withholding of $50 million announced on Friday, Defence Secretary James Mattis’ predecessor Ash Carter decided last year to withhold another $300 million of the funding.

In the statement, Stump said the 2016 funds had to be “released or reprogrammed” before their expiration. He added that the decision to withhold the funds does not “prejudge” the White House and Pentagon’s upcoming strategy for Afghanistan and the surrounding region, now known as the “South Asia Strategy”.

“Pakistan still has time to take action against the Haqqani Network in order to influence the Secretary’s certification decision in,” Stump said. The US in 2012 designated the Haqqani Network as a terrorist organization.

Mattis earlier told lawmakers that the Pentagon’s new approach in Afghanistan would focus more on Pakistan, a country long seen as a problem by US officials because of its lawless border regions where Taliban and Haqqani militants often encamp and regroup before flowing back towards Kabul, the report said.

Since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Washington had often made pledges to put more pressure on Pakistan to help stem the tide of fighters moving back and forth between the two countries. Despite some Pakistani military operations in the region, little progress had been made.

Regarding the move, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, said: “It may be noted that the funds in question are a reimbursement of the expenses incurred by Pakistan towards achieving our common objectives in the fight against terrorism, and not an assistance.”

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