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May 26, 2017

US military aid to Pakistan to have $125m cut

National

May 26, 2017

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration may still not convert Pakistan’s military financing into loan but the amount will be reduced to $100 million for the next fiscal year, State Department has confirmed to The News.

Last year, Pakistan received $225 million in US foreign military financing (FMF) but this year a reduction of $125 million has been proposed for the first US budget under President Donald Trump. However, the US economic assistance of $200 million to Pakistan will remain unchanged as compared to the last budget.

“This budget focuses on bilateral FMF assistance requested for Israel ($3.1 billion), Egypt ($1.3 billion), Jordan ($350.0 million), and Pakistan ($100.0 million),” a State Department spokesperson told The News.

However, contrary to earlier media reports, the State Department maintained that assistance to Pakistan could also be used as grant assistance. “While we may use FMF to leverage loans for some countries, we will still maintain the flexibility to use it as grant assistance where needed. The President’s Budget Request does not make a determination whether this funding is to be provided through grants or as a subsidy for a loan,” the spokesperson said.

In addition to $100 FMF, the State Department also proposed $200 million for Pakistan’s economic assistance and $25 million for civilian law enforcement agencies for the year 2018. An amount of $11.3 million has been proposed for the next year to support technical assistance to strengthen Pakistan’s health systems. Other smaller grants are also part of the State Department’s budget proposal for Pakistan.

While asked about the proposed budget cuts, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Aizaz Chaudhry stressed that his country’s counter-terrorism partnership with the United States serves mutual interest of both the nations.

“Pakistan and the United States cooperate on a broad range of issues including counterterrorism. Our partnership has served mutual interests of both countries and remains a shared effort,” Chaudhry told The News.

The ambassador maintained that in the wake of new threats such as ISIS, Pakistan is committed to this mutually beneficial relationship. “As for the US budgetary process, it is at an initial stage and we will continue to observe its progress,” he said.

According to the State Department’s congressional budget justification, Pakistan plays a key role in US counterterrorism strategy, the peace process in Afghanistan, nuclear non-proliferation efforts, and stability and economic integration in South and Central Asia. “It is also a large and growing economy offering profitability for the US businesses.”

The proposal submitted with Congress promises cost reduction for US taxpayers by making some funds available to support military assistance loans, potentially allowing recipients to purchase more American-made weaponry with US assistance, but on a repayable basis.

The document says FMF will be used to “advance the US national security interests in Pakistan by supporting Pakistan’s capacity to improve stability and security and fight terrorism, including through the elimination of safe havens for terrorist and militant organisations.”

It says the assistance will continue efforts to build the counterterrorism and counterinsurgency capabilities of Pakistan’s security forces to improve security in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, achieve progress on joint US-Pakistan objectives, including bilateral efforts to decimate core al-Qaeda elements and confront the emerging threat posed by ISIS-Khorasan Province.

According to official documents, $200 million Economic Support and Development Fund will support Pakistan’s long-term stability and broader security and stability in the region.

“Programmes will strengthen trust in governance institutions, improve economic growth, and promote sustained efforts against militant ideologies in areas most vulnerable to extremism and extremist organisations, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata),” it reads.