Congress tightening screws on US aid to Pakistan

Updated July 14, 2017

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US $100 bills are seen in this file photo.— AFP/File
US $100 bills are seen in this file photo.— AFP/File

WASHINGTON: A key Congressional panel started hearing a proposal on Thursday to make US civil and military aid to Pakistan conditional to Islamabad’s support to the fight against the Afghan Taliban.

The tougher language on Pakistan forms part of the 2018 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations draft bill, which was distributed among the members of the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

The draft continues current requirements regarding assistance for Pakistan but prevents the Secretary of State from giving a full national-interest waiver. The secretary can now only issue a waiver for 85 per cent of the funds appropriated under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF).

Examine: Pakistan’s anxiety

The bill underlines the US concerns about Pakistan’s commitment to combating terrorism in the Pak-Afghan region, saying: “The committee remains concerned with the commitment by Pakistan to US strategic objectives in the region, including combating terrorism”.

In recent days, senior US officials and lawmakers have both sent clear messages to Pakistan, urging it to help the United States and the Afghan government defeat the Taliban militants. They also said that the failure to do so would force the United States to reconsider its relationship with Pakistan.

The bill also suggests withholding $33,000,000 of funds until the Secretary of State reports to the Committee that Dr Shakil Afridi has been released from prison and cleared of all charges related to the assistance he provided to the United States in locating Osama bin Laden.

The committee recommends $642.2 million as assistance for Pakistan. Carryover funds for assistance for Pakistan are projected to total about $1.371 billion.

The committee also recommends $115-542m for diplomatic operations in Pakistan.

The bill provides $47.4bn in both regular discretionary and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. This is $10bn below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.

The Secretary of State is asked to certify that Pakistan is cooperating with the United States in counter-terrorism efforts against the Haqqani network, the Quetta Shura Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Al Qaeda, and other domestic and foreign terrorist organisations, including taking effective steps to end support for such groups and prevent them from basing and operating in Pakistan and carrying out cross-border attacks into neighbouring countries.

The secretary of state is also required to certify that Pakistan is not supporting terrorist activities against the United States or coalition forces in Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies are not intervening extra-judicially into political and judicial processes in Pakistan.

The certification needs to include that Pakistan is not financing or otherwise supporting schools supported by, affiliated with, or run by the Taliban or any designated foreign terrorist organisation and that Islamabad is preventing the proliferation of nuclear-related material and expertise.

The bill also says that the funds made available under the ‘Foreign Military Financing Programme’ can only be used to support counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency capabilities in Pakistan. This prevents Pakistan from using this fund to buy F-16 fighter jets, as it did in the past.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2017