ISLAMABAD: The defence ministry has expressed concern over the delay in release of the $350 million tranche of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) by the US Congress for want of a certification by the American defence secretary that Pakistani counter-terrorism operations were disrupting the Haqqani Network’s sanctuaries on its soil.

“The issues of the decrease in Coalition Support Fund and the economic difficulties in dealing with the crises of North Waziristan’s internally displaced persons also came under discussion,” a defence ministry statement said, after a meeting between defence secretary, retired Lt Gen Muhammad Alam Khattak, and US Ambassador David Hale.

Under the US National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) for the fiscal year 2016, the US Congress had conditioned the release of the $350m tranche to a certification by the American defence secretary, declaring that Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan were disrupting the freedom of movement of the Haqqani Network. The secretary must also confirm that the Pakistani government is coordinating with Kabul to restrict the movement of militants across the border.

The US defence secretary has yet to issue the certificate.

Operation Zarb-i-Azb was commenced in North Waziristan in June 2014, but there have been doubts voiced by US policymakers that the Haqqani Network was being spared in the operation.

A senior US commander, Lt Gen John Nicholson, who has been named to lead the Nato/US mission in Afghanistan, testified before a Congress panel last week that they were no longer targeting the network in Afghanistan.

Gen Khattak told Amb Hale that Pakistan would play its “positive role” for peace in the region, citing the country’s role in reviving the reconciliation dialogue between the Afghan government and Taliban.

Besides the $350m being held back, the level of CSF disbursement has also been brought down from $1 billion in 2015 to $900m in the current financial year.

The defence ministry said that Amb Hale acknowledged Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror and assured that the US would continue to extend its support in countering terrorism and infrastructure development.

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2016