US proposes $336 m aid to Pak, down by $10 m

| | Washington

US President Donald Trump has proposed $336 million in civilian and security aid to Pakistan for fiscal 2019, beginning October 1, but has tied disbursement of the $ 80 million security aid component to Islamabad taking decisive action against terror outfits.

Trump’s $4 trillion annual budget scales down Pakistan assistance by about $10 million as part of the overall spending cuts on foreign aid that he has proposed. It has been made clear that the assistance will be used to “advance US national security interests in Pakistan by supporting Pakistan’s capacity to improve stability and security and fight terrorism, including through the elimination of safe havens for terrorist and militant organizations”. Last month, the Trump administration had, in a massive blow to Pakistan, announced suspension of nearly $2 billion in security assistance. The White House has held out the hope of ending the freeze if only Islamabad goes the whole hog to crack down on terrorist groups continuing to enjoy a safe haven on its soil. 

In the budget proposals, $200 million has proposed for Pakistan under Overseas Contingency Operations, noting that these resources will “help reduce opportunities for violent 95 extremism in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region, strengthen societal resilience to violent extremism, and expand private sector-led inclusive economic growth, including pursuing private-public partnerships with both US and Pakistani firms”.

The proposed assistance is also intended to support efforts to improve access to services for Pakistani citizens, implement political and economic reforms, and “foster a more inclusive and tolerant environment”. As for the $80 million aid proposed under Foreign Military Financing, the budget documents say this will be “contingent on Pakistan taking appropriate action to expand cooperation in areas where interests converge and to address areas of national divergence, in line with the Administration’s South Asia strategy”.

“Assistance will continue efforts to build the counterterrorism and counterinsurgency capabilities of Pakistan’s security forces needed to improve security in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan,” the budget documents say. At a State Department briefing, Hari Sastry, Director of the Office of US Foreign Assistance Resources, told a questioner: “The Pakistan assistance in total is down about $10 million.” He, however, put the assistance figure at $351 million. “Our foreign assistance, the President and the Secretary continue to believe, should be aligned to US interests, so this budget certainly reflects that,” Sastry said in reply to another question. In respect of Afghanistan, the budget reaffirms the American commitment towards a stable and secure South Asia by supporting the Afghan government and security forces in the fight against the Taliban insurgents and terrorist organisations such as Al Qaeda and ISIS.

The budget requests more than $ 5 billion for continued US training and assistance for the Afghan security forces and enabling US forces to conduct counter-terrorism operations to ensure that the region cannot be used by jihadist, terrorist groups to plot transnational attacks against the US homeland, citizens overseas, or allies and partners.



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