Secretary of Defense James Mattis told Congress this week that Pakistan will not receive some $50 million in outstanding military reimbursements from the 2016 fiscal year because the Pakistani government has not done enough to fight the Taliban and its allies, such as the Haqqani network.
“The funds could not be released to the Government of Pakistan at this time because the secretary could not certify that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani Network per the requirement in the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA),” Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump explained to CNN on Friday.
Stump added that this decision “does not prejudge the conclusions of the White House review of South Asia strategy, which is still ongoing.”
That might be good or bad news for Pakistan, depending on how the review turns out, but Reuters ominously observes that the Trump administration has been “exploring potentially hardening its approach toward Pakistan to crack down on militants launching strikes in neighboring Afghanistan.”
Also, Pakistan forfeited a much larger $300 million reimbursement under Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter for similar reasons, so another subpar review is a disappointing sign that lessons have not been learned.
Stump did take pains to salute the Pakistani military for its work against terrorists in other areas, saying the United States is “encouraged by Pakistan’s operations in North Waziristan and elsewhere in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.” He also said there was still time for Pakistan to “influence the Secretary’s certification decision in fiscal year 2017” by taking the required action against the Haqqanis.
The Haqqani network is an affiliate of both the Taliban and al-Qaeda, responsible for both deadly terrorist attacks and kidnappings for profit. The group is named for its leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, who was minister of tribal affairs under the Taliban until they were deposed by the U.S. invasion in 2001. The network is based in the Pakistani tribal region, where it has allegedly received support from factions of Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI), as well as wealthy donors in Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Pakistan criticized Mattis’ decision and rejected American assessments that it has not done enough to fight the Taliban and its allies.
“We have taken indiscriminate and all-out action against terrorists,” Pakistani Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria insisted, pointing out that the U.S. State Department’s report indicated that al-Qaeda has been degraded in Afghanistan and Pakistan by his country’s efforts, and terrorist activity by various groups in Pakistan has declined.
“As is evident from the statistics and media reports available, a considerable number of leaders and senior commanders of the Haqqani network and other terrorists have been killed inside Afghanistan,” said Zakaria. “Our efforts have been met with success, and acknowledged by a number of countries, including the US. Various delegations, who came to Pakistan from US and other countries, have visited the affected areas, which we successfully cleansed from terrorism.”