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Pentagon cancels $300 million military aid to Pakistan ahead of Pompeo visit

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks briefly during a brief at U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) in Stuttgart, Germany, June 29, 2017. Gen. Dunford visited USAFRICOM and U.S. European Command after spending several days in Afghanistan meeting U.S., Coalition, and Afghan leaders. (DoD Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)
September 02, 2018

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The U.S. military says it has decided to cancel $300 million in aid to Pakistan that had been suspended due to Islamabad’s perceived lack of action against militants, raising tensions ahead of a visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the top U.S. general.

President Donald Trump suspended the so-called Coalition Support Funds, along with other aid to Pakistan, at the start of the year.

The Trump administration accuses Islamabad of harboring insurgents who are waging a 17-year-old war in neighboring Afghanistan, a charge Pakistan denies.

“Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy the remaining $300 (million) was reprogrammed,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said on September 1.

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Faulkner said the Pentagon aimed to spend the $300 million on “other urgent priorities” if approved by Congress.

He said another $500 million in CSF was stripped by Congress from Pakistan earlier this year, to bring the total withheld to $800 million.

The Pentagon’s remarks come ahead of a planned visit on September 5 to Islamabad by Pompeo, who will be accompanied by the top U.S. military officer, General Joseph Dunford.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters on August 28 that the fight against militants would be a “primary part of the discussion” when the U.S. officials meet with new Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Kahn and others.

Mattis is not expected to make the trip to Pakistan, but he is scheduled to travel with Pompeo to Pakistan’s rival, India, later in the week for a summit with their counterparts.

Trump earlier this year wrote on Twitter that the “United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools.”

“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” he added.

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In March, a senior U.S. official said Islamabad had “done the bare minimum to appear responsive to our requests.”

Pakistan has rejected allegations it is not doing enough to fight terrorism or that it provides safe haven for insurgents operating in Afghanistan.

It points out that thousands of its citizens and soldiers have been killed and billions of dollars have been spent in the fight against terrorists.

Pompeo’s visit also comes after Islamabad disputed the readout of an August 23 phone call by the secretary of state with Kahn.

A description of the call released by the State Department said Pompeo raised “the importance of Pakistan taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan and its vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process.”

But Islamabad said that “no issue relating to terrorists in Pakistan” was raised.

“Pakistan takes exception to the factually incorrect statement issued by U.S. State Department” on the phone call, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Twitter.

“There was no mention at all in the conversation about terrorists operating in Pakistan. This should be immediately corrected.”

The State Department said the U.S. government stood by its statement.