WASHINGTON: A day before US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Commander Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford’s stopover in Islamabad to meet the new government officials to discuss issues of mutual concern, the Pentagon has said that the US would continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups.
"Since January, we have consistently engaged with Pakistani military officials at the highest levels, based on both a shared commitment to defeat all terrorist groups that threaten regional stability and security, as well as on a shared vision of a peaceful future for Afghanistan," the Pentagon spokesperson Lt Col Kone Faulkner told The News adding, "We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups, including the Haqqani Network and we continue to call on Pakistan to arrest, expel or bring the Taliban leadership to the negotiating table."
The Pentagon official also insisted that reporting on the cancellation of $300 million to Pakistan as claimed in some section of media last week was out of context. "Unfortunately, recent reporting has distorted the details of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) by stating several things out of context," the spokesperson said while clarifying, "The suspension of security assistance to Pakistan was announced in January 2018. CSF is included in the suspension and it remains in place."
President Donald Trump had announced earlier this year that his administration was to suspend all security related assistance to Pakistan alleging that Islamabad was not acting against militant groups as promised. Following the presidential orders the administration froze around a billion dollar aid to Pakistan but had also proposed some $300 million in its new annual budget which was again tied to act against militant groups. This has been a long demand from the Trump administration to come to terms with militant groups especially the Taliban to help initiate dialogue for a political settlement in Afghanistan.
Commenting on the news that was reported widely over the weekend that Pentagon had cancelled $300 million, the department maintained, "This is not a new decision or a new announcement, but acknowledgement of a July request to reprogramme funds before they expire."
Explaining the process, the official said that the 2018 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, published March 23, 2018 details $500 million was rescinded by the Congress. "We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups, including the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba in the region. Owing to lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia strategy the remaining $300 million was reprogrammed by Defence Department in the July 2018 timeframe for other urgent priorities before the funds expire on September 30, 2018."
"Department of defence is awaiting congressional determination on whether this reprogramming request will be approved or denied. Department of Defence will have a congressional response before September 30, 2018, to allow it to implement the reprogramming actions," the official said.
It is pertinent to note that the National Defense Authorization Act 2019 removes certain conditions - like action against Haqqani Network or the Lashkar-e-Taiba - as was the case in the past few years for disbursement of US aid to Pakistan. The legislation has also reduced the amount of funds provided for reimbursement to Pakistan to $150 million.