Taliban to weaken if US withholds Pakistan aid: experts
The US has warned Pakistan of withholding $300 million in military aid if it doesn’t do more to crack down on militants targeting US and Afghan troops in Afghanistan, according to President Obama administration officials.
If Washington follows through, it would be the first time that Pakistan pays financially for playing what the country’s critics call a double game—partnering with the US while allowing Afghan insurgents safe harbor.
Since 2002, Pakistan has received about $1 billion a year under a US programme meant to reimburse it for costs incurred fighting militants near the Afghan border.
Under a law passed last year, Washington must withhold some of those so-called Coalition Support Funds if Pakistan doesn’t take adequate steps to disrupt the Haqqani network, a Taliban ally.
“What we’re doing with the government of Pakistan is having a clear and candid conversation with them about that requirement and about the concerns we have with regard to the Haqqanis,” a senior US official had said.
The official said the Pentagon hasn’t decided whether to certify that Islamabad has done enough to counter the Haqqanis
Pakistan, worried that support from the US is fading, has looked to strengthen ties with China as well as Russia, a Cold War-era enemy. On Thursday, Pakistan announced it would buy four advanced military helicopters from from Russia.
Last year Pakistan launched a large-scale military operation in the North Waziristan tribal area, a region along the Afghan border that has been a sanctuary for the Haqqani network, al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban.
Military affairs expert Attiqullah Amarkhel told Pajhwok Afghan News: “What is important to us is that the US must stop assistance to Pakistan. If the US does so in real, it will be an appropriate step, we will welcome it because it will have a direct impact on the Afghanistan conflict.”
He said if the US assistance stopped, it would in return stop Pakistan from funding the anti-Afghan state elements and thus the Taliban would weaken.
“It is in the interest of Afghanistan if the US stops financially assisting Pakistan. The move will weaken the Taliban and more possibly make them to appear for peace talks,” Amarkhel said.
During his last day in office, former president Hamid Karzai had said the keys of peace in Afghanistan were in the hands of Pakistan and the United States.
Amarkhel interpreted Karzai’s remarks as if the US withheld funds to Pakistan in military assistance, it would dry up the roots of insurgency in Afghanistan and deprive the rebels of financial resources.
“The funds the US provides to Pakistan directly ends up in the hands of terrorists. Pakistan regroups and equips terrorists with these funds and sends them to Afghanistan,” the expert alleged, calling it an open secret.
He also lashed out at the US calling it a two-faced country that sometimes stopped funds to Pakistan and sometimes continued funding the neighbouring country in order to achieve its objectives.
Another military expert Javed Kohistani said the US warning to Pakistan was aimed at mounting pressure on Islamabad to fulfill promises it had held out to Washington in the war against terrorism.
He believed if the US stopped providing funds to Pakistan, it would compel Islamabad to prevent the Taliban from carrying out anti-Kabul activities.
“It will change Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan and prevent it from unnecessarily interfering in Afghanistan’s affairs and supporting terrorists,” he said.
He said the US had long been pressurizing Pakistan to take action against terrorist groups, particularly the Haqqani network, but Islamabad had failed to do so.
He said criticism on Pakistan and the US had increased among the Afghans and the Kabul administration after a recent wave of deadly attacks in Afghanistan, particularly the attack in Shah Shaheed area of Kabul, prompting the US to warn Pakistan.
Fifteen civilians were killed and hundreds others were wounded in the attack in Shah Shaheed area.
Kohistani urged the US to adopt a clear stance on Pakistan and coerce Pakistani officials to target terror sanctuaries inside their country.
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