The United States announced Thursday it was suspending security assistance to Pakistan for failing to take “decisive action” against Taliban militants targeting U.S. personnel in neighboring Afghanistan.
The State Department’s declaration signaled growing frustration over Pakistan’s cooperation in fighting terrorist networks. Initially vague information on how much money and materiel was being withheld suggested the primary goal was to substantiate President Donald Trump’s surprising New Year’s Day tweet that accused Pakistan of playing U.S. leaders for “fools.”
Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the restrictions covered security assistance above and beyond the $255 million for Pakistani purchases of American military equipment that the administration held up in August.
Nauert made clear the $255 million was still blocked, and the Pentagon said the new action targets payments of so-called Coalition Support Funds that the U.S. pays to Pakistan to reimburse it for its counterterrorism operations.
Defense spending legislation for 2017 provides for up to $900 million in Coalition Support Funds, of which $400 million can only be released to Pakistan if Defense Secretary Jim Mattis certifies Pakistan has taken specific actions against the Haqqani network. None of the $900 million as so far been disbursed, the Pentagon said. The last Coalition Support Funds were paid to Pakistan in March last year, provided under defense spending legislation for 2016.
On Monday, Trump said the U.S. had “foolishly” given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid in the last 15 years and had gotten nothing in return but “lies & deceit.” He reiterated longstanding allegations that Pakistan gives “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.”
Trump unveiled in August a South Asia strategy aimed at ending the stalemate in the U.S. war in Afghanistan, now entering its 17th year. Nauert said that despite sustained high-level engagement with Pakistan’s government, “the Taliban and Haqqani network continue to find sanctuary inside Pakistan as they plot to destabilize Afghanistan and attack U.S. and allied personnel.” She told reporters that until Pakistan takes “decisive action” against those groups, security assistance was suspended.
Civilian development and economic assistance to Pakistan is not affected.
The Assicated Press contributed to this report.