Dubai – The Trump administration on Thursday announced that it is suspending its entire security assistance to Pakistan until it proves its commitment to fight all terrorist groups operating in the region.
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told a news briefing in Washington that the cut-off is not permanent and only affects military assistance.
Sources said that the proposed plan does not call for “a total cut-off”. Instead, it suggests a “condition and issue-based approach”.
Under the new approach, funds would be allocated to a particular purpose identified with the allocation and would be released only after that target is achieved. The targets identified with the allocation could be strategic as well as issue specific.
Ms Nauert said the suspension will remain in effect until Pakistan “takes decisive action” against groups such as the Taliban that are “destabilising the region and targeting US personnel”. Although Pakistan “certainly has been helpful in some instances,” she said, “they are not taking steps they need to take to fight terrorists.”
The aid suspension will include equipment and the transfer of security-related funds, with possible exceptions for US national security reasons.
“We are still working through the numbers,” said Ms Nauert when asked to give an estimated impact of the suspension in dollars.
But the Trump officials had already suspended $255 millions of security assistance from the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) fund, which is used to provide military equipment and training to a friendly country.
The US Congress has also taken away half of the $700m set aside for reimbursing Pakistan for supporting US war efforts along the Pak-Afghan border.
The suspension will now affect the remaining $350m in this account, known as the Coalition Support Fund.
Reports of an impending action against Pakistan have been circulating in Washington since Monday, when President Donald Trump sent out a tweet at 4am, accusing Pakistan of taking billions of dollars in aid and in returning giving “nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools”.
The plan to cut security assistance for Pakistan also comes as the Trump administration seeks more cooperation from Islamabad as part of its strategy in Afghanistan.
Ms Nauert said the latest measure would also suspend other security assistance, but did not specify what that covered, saying it was administered by the Defence Department.
Earlier Thursday, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said that the policy on military aid is “still being formulated.”
Pakistan, however, is not on the list of 10 nations that violate religious freedom in a “systematic, ongoing, egregious” manner. That 10-state list includes Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.