US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis

WASHINGTON: The United States will not make the remaining military reimbursements to Pakistan for fiscal year 2016 because Defence Secretary Jim Mattis cannot certify that Islamabad has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network, the Pentagon said on Friday.

“Secretary Mattis has informed congressional defence committees that he was not able to certify that Pakistan has taken sufficient actions against the Haqqani network to permit full reimbursement of fiscal year 2016 Coalition Support Funds (CSF),” US Defence Department spokesman Adam Stump said. “Therefore, the department has reprogrammed remaining CSF to other accounts.”

The decision will immediately affect a reimbursement of about $50 million, as Congress had already “reprogrammed $300m,” he added. Secretary Mattis has requested reprogramming of the funds to retain the ability to use those funds for other requirements.

Pentagon says decision doesn’t reduce the significance of sacrifices of Pakistan military

Mr Stump also told Dawn that the “decision does not reduce the significance of the sacrifices that the Pakistani military has undertaken over previous years. We continue to be encouraged by Pakistan’s operations in North Waziristan and elsewhere in the Fata”.

And Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington, Aziz Ahmed Chaudhary, pointed out that the restriction would affect “the funds that are a reimbursement of the expenses incurred by the country towards achieving our common goals in the fight against terrorism.” The reimbursement “is not an assistance”, he added.

Mr Chaudhary also said that Pakistan was a victim of terrorism and had paid “a staggering human and financial cost” over the past decade.

“Pakistan has spearheaded the fight against terrorism and has achieved significant success.”

He said that Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts had resulted in a “significant decline in terrorist attacks” and the country “is maintaining the momentum in fighting terrorism”, which was evident in recent operations launched across the country.

The Pentagon spokesman agreed with this observation, noting that “Pakistan’s efforts have reduced the ability of some militant groups to use North Waziristan and the Fata as a safe haven for terrorism”.

But he claimed that “the Taliban and the Haqqani network continue to operate in other locations in Pakistan,” which forced the Pentagon to stop the payment.

“In our discussions with Pakistani officials, we continue to stress that it is in the interest of Pakistan to eliminate all safe havens and reduce the operational capacity of all militant organisations that pose a threat to US and Pakistani interests as well as regional stability,” Mr Stump said.

The Pentagon official, however, warned against linking this decision to a review of the Trump administration’s strategy for South Asia. “This decision does not prejudge the conclusions of the White House review of South Asia strategy, which is still ongoing,” he said.

The 2016 US National Defence Authorisation Act required the defence secretary to certify that Pakistan had taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network but had taken away the authority to issue a national interest waiver, previously issued to Pakistan.

However, Pakistan had already received $550m of the $900m reimbursement the country was authorised in 2016.

As part of the regular Defence Department budgetary process, the FY16 CSF money allotted for Pakistan needed to be released or reprogrammed prior to the expiration of the funding.

The Pentagon explained that $300m of FY2016 Coalition Support Funds were already rescinded as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017and $50m was the remaining amount available out of the $900m authorised for Pakistan in FY16 CSF.

Pakistan is authorised to receive up to $900 million in FY17 CSF. There is a similar certification requirement for Pakistan pertaining to $400 million of FY17 CSF.

“Pakistan still has time to take action against the Haqqani network in order to influence the secretary’s certification decision in FY17,” the Pentagon said.

Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2017