After the US military moved to scrap a $300 million aid to Pakistan for what it claimed was Islamabad’s lack of “decisive actions” in support of regional American strategy, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi contended the labeling of the payment as “aid” and vowed to discuss the matter with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.
“Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy… $300m (actually $323.6m to include non-Pakistan funds) was reprogrammed by the Defense Department in the June/July 2018 time frame for other urgent priorities,” Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said in an email to AFP.
The US defence department “is awaiting a congressional determination on whether this reprogramming request will be approved or denied”, Faulkner said.
Responding to the development, Qureshi, the newly appointed foreign minister of Pakistan, clarified that the payment, which the US is now considering scrapping, is in fact the support coalition fund.
“This is not an aid of any kind that can be suspended,” he said. “This is actually the payment of expenses incurred by us during the war against terrorism.”
The foreign minister said that to “rid the region and the world from terrorism is a joint effort, for which Pakistan has done a lot. The Pakistan Army and people have sacrificed a lot, which is why the positive thinking should be that all the measures that are for our joint goals should continue as is.”
Qureshi said that the matter will be discussed with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo when he visits Pakistan on Wednesday.
“We will sit with him, present our point of view and exchange ideas,” he said. “We have several combined interest … we will take our mutual respect for each other into consideration and move forward.”
Pakistan has fought fierce campaigns against homegrown militant groups and has lost thousands of lives and spent billions of dollars in its long war on extremism.
But US officials accuse Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups that attack Afghanistan from alleged safe havens along the border between the two countries.
The White House believes that a Pakistani crackdown could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the long-running war in Afghanistan.
US frustration boils over
President Donald Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama authorised drone strikes on Pakistani soil and sent US commandos to kill Osama bin Laden in his Abbottabad hideout.
But Trump’s aggressive language has especially angered Pakistani officials. “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,” Trump wrote on Twitter at the beginning of the year.
“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”
Pakistani leaders disputed the $33b figure, insisting that around half of the money relates to reimbursements, and the prime minister’s office accused Trump of ignoring the great sacrifices the country has made to fight extremism.
In March, a senior US official said that Pakistan has “done the bare minimum to appear responsive to our requests,” and concerns over a lack of action by Islamabad against militant groups still persist.
“We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups,” Faulkner had said.