News Analysis |
The US Congress while authorizing the disbursement of $700 million in Coalition Support Fund (CSF) to Pakistan for the support it lends to US military operations in Afghanistan, has conditioned the release of $350 million on certification from the Secretary of Defense, which includes the assurances that Pakistan is taking actions against the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET).
The CSF is a Pentagon program, which reimburses US allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations. The CSF is not akin to military aid and is just Pakistan’s rightful reimbursement for the support it provides to the US war-efforts in Afghanistan.
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Earlier this year, the Pentagon had decided to withhold the above-mentioned restricted $350 million out of the allotted $900 million Coalition Support Fund (CSF). They cited Pakistan’s inability to take down the Haqqani Network the reason why they withheld the funds. c
General John Nicholson said on Thursday that Pakistan has not changed its behaviour. “No, I haven’t seen any change yet in their behaviour,” Nicholson said in a media talk after a meeting of the NATO defence ministers in Brussels.
The fresh authorization is included in the reconciled text of the House and Senate versions of the 2018 National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA-2018), which was released on 9th November. The amount is $100 less than what the Trump administration proposed earlier this year in its annual budget proposals under the CSF.
US congressmen said that the restricted amount will be released only if it is certified that Islamabad’s military operations are dispossessing the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) from their sources of strength: safe havens, funding, and ability to recruit. A concern for the funds being released was they would be used to persecute minorities; something that the US claims Pakistan has done in the past. The new bill urges that the Pakistani government should refrain from using the funds in mistreating the Balochis, Hazaras, Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis or Sindhis and other minorities.
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This is the first time that the US has added LET in the list of its immediate demands, something that Delhi will be happy to hear. India has long accused Pakistan of harboring the LET. However, many saw it on the cards. Despite officially maintaining neutrality in the simmering Kashmir dispute, the US has embraced India’s version of the valley as opposed to that of Pakistan. It was also expected given the saliency of India in the US regional strategy: India is the country that the US believes can counter China.
The CSF is a Pentagon program, which reimburses US allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.
The induction of the LET is likely to draw Islamabad’s ire as it will be seen as yet another act of US support for Delhi. Tensions between Pakistan and the US have not only festered because of the latter’s diatribes but also due to efforts on its part of courting India. Pakistan has time and again drawn red lines regarding India’s role in Afghanistan. The US wants active Indian involvement in Afghanistan.
Experts on the region and that well-aware of Pakistan’s strategic thinking argue that propping up India in Afghanistan will estrange Pakistan, something that the US cannot afford, especially given the mounting trouble it is facing in Afghanistan.
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While the US has been advised to draw clear lessons from history, it is still hoping to turn the tables on the Taliban. Despite not being in control of more than 40% of Afghan territory, the US and Afghanistan attribute the brazenness of the Taliban in Pakistan.
The commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson said on Thursday that Pakistan has not changed its behavior. “No, I haven’t seen any change yet in their behavior,” Nicholson said in a media talk after a meeting of the NATO defense ministers in Brussels.
Pakistan has time and again drawn red lines regarding India’s role in Afghanistan. The US wants active Indian involvement in Afghanistan.
Nicholson, who had earlier warned of strikes inside Pakistan added: “You’ve heard the public statements from President Trump, from (Defence Secretary James) Mattis, from (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph) Dunford, from (Secretary of State Rex) Tillerson, so we are engaging at the very highest levels with the Pakistanis to work together with them against these terrorists that are undermining the stability of the entire region.”
Despite bouts of goodwill between the two countries, there are many stumbling blocks. Plenty of them pertains to the idea of warfighting. Pakistan has continually stressed that it neither provides safe havens nor does the Taliban need them. The question that may determine the future of the Afghan war is whether or not the US embraces the fact that military options have dried up. It also remains to be seen whether the US is using the country to forestall the incursions of Russia and China. At a later stage, the US’s presence in Afghanistan could be used to mount an onslaught on its arch-nemesis: Iran.