Mutual interests to drive Pak-US ties forward: Foreign minister

Hugh Fox
September 3, 2018

The U.S. military said it has made a final decision to cancel $300 million in aid to Pakistan, accusing Islamabad of not doing enough to root out militants from its border region with Afghanistan.

Pentagon spokesman Koné Faulkner said Saturday that the agency suspend the funding to the Coalition Support Fund, which reimburses Pakistan's military for fighting against terrorists.

He said another $500 million in CSF was stripped by Congress from Pakistan earlier this year, to bring the total withheld to $800 million. "This is the money they (US) are supposed to reimburse, but now either they are not willing or unable to pay back", Qureshi said during a hurriedly called press conference on Sunday after the U.S. announced the decision.

He added: "We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups". The US aid cut-off has come on the heels of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif's warm visit to Pakistan in which the latter emphasised its support for Iran and the nuclear deal that the US unilaterally pulled out of.

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In cutting all USA funds to UNRWA, the Trump administration labeled the agency "irredeemably flawed".

The department is awaiting congressional determination on whether this reprogramming request will be approved or denied.

The Defense Department will receive that congressional response before September 30, when the funds expire. "So, we want them to be successful", said the top United States official while indicating that Washington could also work with global financial institutions to help boost the ailing Pakistani economy because "economy is going to be the key" to Pakistan's success.

The disclosure came ahead of an expected visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US General Joseph Dunford, to Islamabad.

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Earlier he told the BBC Urdu that the U.S. in principle should pay back the money to Pakistan because it was spent for a common objective to defeat militancy and create peace and stability. Ali J. Siddiqui, Pakistan's ambassador to the USA, confirmed to NBC News last month that the US has also axed a long-standing military training program between the two countries.

"We will sit and discuss this with him (Pompeo). We will listen to him and present our point of view to him as well", he said.

Mr. Pompeo already faced a frosty reception in Islamabad, particularly after he said in July the International Monetary Fund shouldn't extend a financial bail-out to Pakistan, in part, because it would help pay off Chinese loans to Pakistan. That agenda includes using terrorists to shape the post-war future in Afghanistan - a future they wish to dominate. "We have several combined interest. we will take our mutual respect for each other into consideration and move forward", he said.

The Pentagon had made similar determinations on CSF in the past but this year's move could get more attention from Islamabad, and its new Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan, at a time when its economy is struggling.

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"The U.S. has delivered an object lesson in how not to conduct diplomacy", Pakistan's English-language Dawn newspaper said in an editorial on Monday.

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