The Trump administration will withhold $50 million in reimbursements to Pakistan after Defense Secretary James Mattis declared that the nation has failed to adequately combat terrorism.
Mattis recently told Congress that Islamabad, which receives aid from the Pentagon for carrying out counter-terror operations, is not doing enough to thwart the Haqqani Network. The Pakistan-based terror group has been blamed for numerous large scale attacks including a May truck bombing that killed close to 100 people in neighboring Kabul.
“The funds could not be released to the government of Pakistan at this time because the secretary could not certify that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani Network per the requirement in the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA),” Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said Friday.
While Pakistan has been given $550 million out of a possible total of $990 million for fiscal year 2016, the Trump administration is debating whether to take a stronger stance toward the country as it shapes its strategy toward the Middle East.
Stump, the Pentagon spokesman, asserted though that the decision was not devised as part of its overall strategy review.
“This decision does not prejudge the conclusions of the White House review of South Asia strategy, which is still ongoing,” Stump said.
“Pakistan still has time to take action against the Haqqani Network in order to influence the secretary’s certification decision in FY17.”
The State Department also criticized Pakistan this week over its inaction toward the terror group.
“Pakistan did not take substantial action against the Afghan Taliban or [the Haqqani Network], or substantially limit their ability to threaten U.S. interests in Afghanistan, although Pakistan supported efforts to bring both groups into an Afghan-led peace process,” the department said in its yearly terrorism report.
In response, Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria argued that Islamabad has “taken indiscriminate and all out action against terrorists.”
Stump’s statement also stressed that the choice to withhold funds was not a reflection of positive actions taken by the Pakistani military in the fight against terrorism.
“This decision does not reduce the significance of the sacrifices that the Pakistani military has undertaken over previous years,” Stump said. “We continue to be encouraged by Pakistan’s operations in North Waziristan and elsewhere in the [federally administered tribal areas].
“Pakistan’s efforts have reduced the ability of some militant groups to use North Waziristan and the [tribal areas] as a safe haven for terrorism. However, the Taliban and the Haqqani Network continue to operate in other locations in Pakistan.”
The announcement comes one day after President Trump’s national security briefing at the Pentagon in which he stated ISIS was “falling fast.”
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