On August 3, The Washington Post reported that the United States had decided to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance to Pakistan after the Pentagon assessed that the Pakistani government had not taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network.
The funds, which amounted to $300 million,[i] were part of the Coalition Support Funds program. The CSF is used to reimburse Pakistan for costs incurred during its counterinsurgency efforts.
Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said, “The funds could not be released to the government of Pakistan at this time because the secretary [Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter] has not yet certified that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network.”[ii]
In response to the decision, Pakistan’s embassy in Washington, D.C., issued a statement noting that the CSF “is one of the many cooperative arrangements between Pakistan and the United States to pursue common objectives.”[iii]
It stated, “Pakistan will continue its fight against terrorism and ensure that areas cleared by the security forces do not slide back into the control of terrorist networks.” The embassy statement added that members of the U.S. Congress and media representatives have seen, firsthand, areas of Pakistan that have been cleared of terrorist groups.
Washington and Islamabad have long disagreed over the latter’s role in fighting insurgent groups in Pakistan, particularly along the border with Afghanistan. U.S. officials have generally been skeptical of Pakistan’s commitment to dealing with insurgents, while Pakistan insists that it is taking adequate action.
Since 2014, Pakistani troops have been engaged in a campaign called Operation Zarb-e-Azb to dislodge militant groups in North Waziristan. The operation has met with a great degree of success, but, as evidenced by the CSF decision, Washington believes there is much more that needs to be done.
Stump sought to highlight the progress that Pakistan has made, saying, “This decision does not reduce the significance of the sacrifices that the Pakistani military has undertaken over the last two years.”
Even so, Pakistan is still likely to view the CSF decision negatively, particularly in light of the recently collapsed F-16 sale. Islamabad had been looking to acquire eight F-16s to augment its Air Force, but concerns from U.S. lawmakers over the intended use for the F-16s and the pace of the country’s counterinsurgency operations resulted in the U.S. removing the option of providing Pakistan with funding to pay for the aircraft.
Rather than try to finance the entirety of the nearly $700 million deal, Islamabad is looking elsewhere, possibly seeking to buy secondhand F-16s from Jordan instead.[iv]
The stakes for Pakistan were made clear on August 8 when terrorists conducted a bombing in Quetta (the provincial capital of Balochistan) that left at least 70 people dead. Army Gen. Raheel Sharif said the terror attack was carried out to undermine the success of Operation Zarb-e-Azb.[v]
Pakistan remains a key part of the U.S.’s efforts in Afghanistan, particularly as U.S. President Barack Obama has decided to keep 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan through the end of his term.[vi] Obama’s successor, to be elected this November, will have work to do to repair the relationship with Islamabad while ensuring the Pakistani military is prodded to take action against insurgent groups that continue to maintain a large presence in the country.
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