WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump’s decision to freeze aid to Pakistan could affect almost two billion dollars’ worth of assistance, a senior administration official said on Friday — substantially more than first thought.

After an announcement designed to force Pakistan’s military and intelligence apparatus to cut support for the Taliban and other Islamist groups, the official said that both US military assistance and Afghanistan coalition funding to Islamabad could be suspended.

It is “approximately two billion worth of equipment and coalition support funding that is in play,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

After more than a decade of simmering US anger at links between Islamabad and the Taliban and the Haqqani network — a Taliban affiliate — President Donald Trump is trying to draw a line in the sand.

On the hook is almost $1bn of US military equipment that has allowed Pakistan access to advanced military technology, but also funding that is meant to pay Pakistan for helping get US and NATO materiel into Afghanistan.

Analysts believe the United States is highly unlikely to freeze all that funding, which totals $1.9bn, according to the source.

US officials have already indicated that there could be “exemptions” for programs deemed vital to US national security, likely including cash for keeping Pakistan’s nuclear weapons safe.

But nevertheless, the total figure of $1.9bn is much higher than first indicated and is a signal of Washington’s seriousness.

The senior administration official said “all options are on the table” when it comes to further moves, including stripping Pakistan of its status as a “major non-NATO ally” or calling in vital IMF loans.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2018

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