Senate panel conditions $300 mn aid to Pakistan for action on Haqqani

A Senate panel has approved a legislation which blocks USD 300 million US military aid to Pakistan unless the Defence Secretary certifies to the Congress that Islamabad is taking "demonstrable" steps against the Haqqani terror network.

Washington: A Senate panel has approved a legislation which blocks USD 300 million US military aid to Pakistan unless the Defence Secretary certifies to the Congress that Islamabad is taking "demonstrable" steps against the Haqqani terror network.

The Senate Armed Services Committee - which renewed blockage of USD 300 million coalition support fund to Pakistan subject to action against the Haqqani network like previous year when it passed the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA)-2017 last week - has, however, argued in favour of continuing security assistance to Pakistan.

"In recognition of the critical importance of the bilateral US-Pakistan relationship and the need for enhanced security and stability in Pakistan, the committee recommends a provision that would provide the Secretary of Defence the authority to reimburse Pakistan up to USD 800.0 million in fiscal year 2017 for certain activities that enhance the security situation in the northwest regions of Pakistan and along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border," it said in a report.

 

"The provision would also make USD 300.0 million of this amount contingent upon a certification from the Secretary of Defence that Pakistan is taking demonstrable steps against the Haqqani Network in Pakistan," the report said.

NDAA-2017 is scheduled to come up before the Senate for voting, during which several Senators are expected to bring in amendments to this bill.

Senate version of the NDAA differed with that of the House on many issues, including Pakistan.

While the House version of the bill, which was passed last week, calls for blocking USD 450 million of the USD 900 million US aid to Pakistan in coalition support fund, the Senate version has reduced both the figures to USD 300 million and USD 800 million, respectively.

 

NDAA 2016, which ends on September 30 this year, makes it mandatory for the Defence Secretary to certify that Islamabad is taking action against the Haqqani network for the release of last USD 300 million of the coalition support fund to Pakistan.

"The Defence Secretary has not taken a decision yet," Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Devis told reporters yesterday when asked if Ashton Carter has issued the Congress- mandated certification.

The Committee, which passed NDAA-2017 before the weekend's US air strike on Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mansour in the Af-Pak border region, in its report noted that since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Pakistan has been a vital partner in US efforts to combat terrorism in South Asia.

"The committee believes that stability in the region cannot be achieved without stability in Pakistan itself and that fostering a strong, stable, and secure Pakistan is consistent with the national security goals of the United States," the report said.

The Committee noted that Pakistan has been a long-standing strategic partner of the US and believes that the bilateral relationship between the two countries will continue to be strong and enduring.

It said it recognises that some have criticised security assistance for Pakistan in recent years.

"However, the committee believes that security and stability within the borders of Pakistan is vital to the stability of the region and to transregional efforts to combat terrorism more broadly," the report said.

The committee said in this context, it notes with concern that terrorist attacks continue to plague Pakistan and strongly supports efforts by the country's government to take steps to degrade and defeat terrorist networks and activities within its own borders.

"For these reasons, the committee believes that security assistance for Pakistan should continue," the Senate Armed Services Committee said.

"To ensure sustainability and viability over the long- term, the committee also believes that security assistance for Pakistan should transition to a bilateral programme focussed on the stability and security of Pakistan, rather than the more narrow previous focus of Coalition Support Funds, which were based on the country's support for coalition operations in Afghanistan," the report said.

Noting that the coalition presence and mission in Afghanistan continue to evolve, the committee expressed its concern that, if left unchanged, 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.

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