WASHINGTON: The White House has warned Congress that its effort to restrict US military assistance to Pakistan would hurt bilateral ties.
In a policy statement sent to Congress on Tuesday afternoon, the White House said that it appreciated the lawmakers’ concerns about the Haqqani network, but disagreed with their move to restrict aid as it would “unnecessarily complicate progress” in ties with Pakistan.
Earlier this month, the House Armed Services Committee endorsed a draft bill that seeks to block $450 million in aid to Pakistan for failing to take action against Afghanistan’s militant Haqqani network.
Through an amendment to the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) for 2017, the panel approved $900m for Pakistan from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) but half of it could only be released if the Secretary of Defence certifies that Pakistan continues to conduct operations against the Haqqani network.
The House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the US Congress, is likely to vote on the bill later this week.
“The Administration objects to section 1212 (of the bill), which would make $450m of CSF to Pakistan ineligible for the Secretary of Defence’s waiver authority unless the Secretary provides a certification to the Congressional defence committees,” the White House said.
“We share the committee’s concerns regarding the threat posed to our forces and interests in Afghanistan by the Haqqani network, and we continue to engage with Pakistan at the highest levels regarding the need for concerted action specifically against the group,” the White House assured the lawmakers.
But the restriction in section 1212 would “unnecessarily complicates progress in our bilateral relationship on this issue and would limit the Secretary of Defence’s ability to act in the US national security interest,” it added.
The amended section also requires the defence secretary to certify that Pakistan is demonstrating commitment to preventing the Haqqani network from using North Waziristan as a safe haven and is actively coordinating with Afghanistan to restrict the movement of terrorists, including those belonging to the Haqqani network, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
The 2016 budget, which ends on Sept 31, includes a similar restriction for the release of $300m to Pakistan and so far the defence secretary has not issued the required certification.
Earlier this month, the House Armed Services Committee decided to review the reimbursements made to Pakistan to ensure that it conforms to US policies.
Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2016