WASHINGTON: The US Senate Armed Services Committee has approved a proposal to set up a new fund to reimburse Pakistan for its efforts in the war against terror. The new fund also delinks the country from Afghanistan.
The committee’s chairman, Senator John McCain, introduced the bill, which sets aside up to $800 million for reimbursing Pakistan and the proposal is included in the Senate version of the National Defence Authorisation Act, 2017, passed on May 18.
Under the current arrangement, Pakistan is reimbursed from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) and has received a total of $3.1 billion since 2013. The CSF expires in the 2016 financial year, which ends in October.
The bill, however, requires Pakistan to keep open ground communication lines to Afghanistan for receiving reimbursements from this fund. And $300m is linked to taking action against the Haqqani network.
Another bill, passed by the House of Representatives last week, linked $450m from a total of $900m proposed for Pakistan to take action against the Haqqani network. But the Senate bill is different from the House version.
The proposed fund replaces the CSF, which was for reimbursing Pakistan for its support to US and coalition activities in Afghanistan. The new provision takes the same reimbursement model but focuses on Pakistan and on US national security interests. In doing so, it breaks the link between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
During a debate in the committee, lawmakers noted that the United States has already withdrawn most of its troops from Afghanistan. The US-led coalition is also winding up its activities.
With this change in the nature of US mission in Afghanistan, policymakers in Washington felt that it is no longer relevant to link Pakistan to Afghanistan.
Instead, they decided to link the new fund to Pakistan’s own security and stability, which Washington sees as important for its own national security interests.
While considering the proposal, the committee noted that “Pakistan has been a long-standing strategic partner of the United States” and expressed its desire to continue a “strong and enduring” relationship between the two countries.
To ensure sustainability and viability over the long term, the committee endorsed the proposal to “transition security assistance to Pakistan to a bilateral programme focused on the stability and security of Pakistan, rather than the more narrow previous focus of Coalition Support Funds”.
The committee also expressed the concern that “continued reliance on Coalition Support Funds for the provision of security assistance to Pakistan could negatively impact US support of Pakistani operations to combat terrorism”.
Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2016