Washington, DC – The US reiterated on Monday (Jan. 8) its readiness to work with Pakistan if the latter would take “decisive action” against terrorism but clarified that Washington would use other routes if Islamabad decided to close supply lines to Afghanistan.
Addressing journalists at the Pentagon, Army Col. Robert Manning, Director of Press Operations said, “Our expectations are straightforward: Taliban and Haqqani leadership and attack planners should no longer be able to find safe haven or conduct operations from Pakistani soil.”
On the concerns of Pakistan closing the supply route to Afghanistan due to the US decision to suspend military aid, Manning said, “While the US favors supply routes via Pakistan because of cost, we do have built-in flexibility and redundancy in our air, sea and ground supply lines into and out of Afghanistan to avoid over-reliance on any single option.”
Military aid to Pakistan
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 provided up to $900 million for Pakistan in Coalition Support Funds, or CSF, Manning explained. CSF is a two-year fund, so the FY17 CSF started Oct 1, 16 and ends Oct 1, 18.
“That amount has been suspended, not cancelled or reprogrammed, as we continue to hope that Pakistan will take decisive action against the terrorist and militant groups that we seek,” he said.
Of that $900 million, $400 million can only be released if the DoD certifies the Pakistan government has made significant progress against the Haqqani network. “The Secretary (Defense Secretary James N. Mattis) has not yet made a decision on the certification required by the FY17 NDAA. We cannot speculate on a future FY18 NDAA,” Manning noted.
“This suspension is not a permanent cutoff at this time,” he reiterated, noting, “Security funding and pending deliveries will be frozen, but not cancelled or reprogrammed at this time.”
Manning said to date none of that FY17 funding has been distributed to Pakistan. The last disbursement, of $550 million in FY16 CSF, was in early 2017, he said.
“Our expectations are straightforward: Taliban and Haqqani leadership and attack planners should no longer be able to find safe haven or conduct operations from Pakistani soil,” the answer clarified without mincing words.
“Work Together” Still Possible
In an impromptu news conference earlier on January 5, Secretary Mattis told journalists at the Pentagon: The US “had disagreements, strong disagreements on some issues, and we’re working those. The specific individual things we’re doing are best handled in private, to ensure that we can be most productive — and that’s what we’re working now.”
Echoing that sentiment of private conversations, Manning said the conversations in private with Pakistani government would continue adding, “The United States has conveyed to Pakistan specific and concrete steps that it could take toward these ends.”
Manning declared, “We stand ready to work together with Pakistan to combat terrorist groups without distinction.”