US Congress authorizes $700 million for reimbursing Pakistan, half of package conditional

The United States Congress has approved a military aid package of $700 million in Coalition Support Fund (CSF) to reimburse Pakistan for its activities carried out in support of US operations in Afghanistan, but half of the package needs the approval of US Defense Secretary James Mattis.

The authorization is included in the reconciled text of the House and Senate versions of the 2018 National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA-2018), which was released on 9 October 2017.

The reconciled version makes $350m of $700m available to Pakistan under the CSF is contingent upon certification from the Defense Secretary James Mattis that Pakistan is taking demonstrable steps against the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The NDAA urged the defence department to monitor Washington’s security assistance to Pakistan and ensure that the country did not use it to support militant groups.

It said the US administration would release the restricted amount of $350m if the secretary of defence certified to the congressional committees that Pakistan continued to conduct military operations that were contributing to disrupting safe havens, fundraising and recruiting efforts, and freedom of movement of the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan.

The secretary will also have to certify that Pakistan took steps to demonstrate its commitment to prevent the Haqqani network and LeT from using Pakistani territory as a safe haven and for fundraising or recruiting efforts.

The certification would include a declaration that Pakistan was making an attempt to coordinate with Afghanistan to restrict the movement of militants along the border, and Pakistan had shown progress in arresting and prosecuting senior leaders and mid-level operatives of the Haqqani network and LeT.

In the last two years, two successive US defence secretaries, Ashton Carter and James Mattis have refused to give such a certification, thus preventing the administration to release the funds.

The reconciled version also expresses concern about the alleged persecution of various political or religious groups in Pakistan, including Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis, Baloch, Sindhi and Hazara.

The bill also urges the secretary of defence to ensure that Pakistan will not use any assistance provided by the United States to persecute minority groups.

The commander of the NATO-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, US Army General John Nicholson, said on Thursday that Pakistan had not changed its behaviour since President Donald Trump announced his new policy for Afghanistan and the South Asia region, a policy that specifically called on Pakistan to do more.

Commander of the NATO-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, US Army General John Nicholson addressing the media on 9 October in Brussels

The CNN quoted Nicholson saying, “No, I haven’t seen any change yet in their behaviour.”

This was stated by the NATO Commander to reporters following a meeting of the NATO defence ministers in Brussels when asked whether he had seen any increased cooperation from Pakistan with regards to eliminating Taliban sanctuaries.

“The United States has been very clear about the direction we want to go, and we hope to see some change in the coming weeks and months,” added the NATO Commander.

US Defence Secretary James Mattis in a meeting on Thursday said that the US government was reaching out to the international community to help encourage Pakistan to take action against the Afghan Taliban by offering incentives and disincentives.

NATO Defence Ministers’ meeting on Afghanistan in Brussels on Thursday

“Obviously, there are ways we can reward Pakistan, and there are ways we can ensure they are held to account,” Mattis said.

“We are going to work with Pakistan and make this work,” he added.

Last month, Trump praised Pakistan for its role in helping recover US citizen Caitlan Coleman and her family who had been held by the Haqqani network, a branch of the Taliban.

“The Pakistani government’s cooperation is a sign that it is honouring America’s wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region,” Trump said following their recovery.

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