WASHINGTON: Key members of Congress are not prepared to support military aid to Pakistan without some specific actions and the Obama administration has to follow their decision, says the US State Department.

At a Thursday afternoon news briefing in Washington, a State Department official, Elizabeth Trudeau, pointed out that the US administration also wanted Pakistan to act against the Haqqani network.

“Key members of Congress have been clear they’re not prepared to support US military aid to Pakistan absent some specific actions,” she said.

Ms Trudeau said the United States had clearly conveyed its views to Pakistan on the activities of the Haqqani network and Islamabad knew what to do.

“Pakistan has spoken that they will not discriminate against [militant] groups. We could encourage them to continue to live up to that,” she said when asked if the State Department was willing to certify that Pakistan had taken the ‘specific actions’ needed to justify releasing military funds to the country.

The statement coincided with a debate in the Pakistani parliament where Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz conceded that relations with the US had been under stress for the past three months.

Last week, a US congressional panel endorsed a move to block $450 million of military aid to Pakistan for failing to take action against the Haqqani network. And late last month, US senators stopped the administration from using foreign military financing for subsidising sale of eight F-16s to Pakistan.

Responding to another question, Ms Trudeau said that while only Congress could explain its position on the issue, the administration was “committed to working with Congress to deliver security assistance to our partners and allies”.

Doing so, she added, “furthers US goals by building capacity to meet shared security challenges”.

When asked if the Obama administration and Congress were on the same page on the matter, Ms Trudeau said: “We continue to work with Congress,” making it clear that the administration on its own could not release the funds.

After improving a bit, relations between Pakistan and the US began to deteriorate again early this year when Pakistan’s efforts to persuade Taliban to join Afghan reconciliation talks failed.

Some analysts say that Pakistan does not have enough influence on the Taliban to persuade them to accept a peace deal. They argue that the militants will only join peace talks if they realise that they cannot win the war.

The Americans argue that Pakistan can play an effective role in making the Taliban realise their own vulnerability by taking direct military action against those who are hiding inside its borders.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2016

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