The US is to suspend all security assistance to the country. But if Trump continues to ramp up the pressure, Pakistan could retaliateby Rupert Stone / January 10, 2018 / Leave a comment
The Trump administration announced last week that it would be suspending all United States security assistance to Pakistan over its alleged support for terrorist groups, such as the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network. These groups apparently use sanctuaries in Pakistan to launch attacks against US interests in Afghanistan, and may receive arms and intelligence from the Pakistani military, too.
Pakistan has long backed militants operating in Afghanistan. During the 1980s its intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), teamed up with the CIA to support jihadists opposing the Soviet invasion of that country. When the Soviet Union lost and withdrew, Afghanistan descended into civil war, and Pakistan armed and funded the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban, which eventually took control of the government in 1996.
Then came 9/11. The al-Qaeda terrorists who perpetrated the attacks had been trained in Afghanistan, where the group received protection from the government. The US therefore invaded in October, 2001, and removed the Taliban from power. Pakistan, for its part, agreed to assist America’s “war on terror” in return for large amounts of aid. But instead it played a “double game,” targeting some militants while continuing to harbour the Taliban.
Fast forward to 1st January, 2018. In his first tweet of the year, President Trump fumed about the $33 billion of aid he claimed the US had given to Pakistan since 2001. But this figure is misleading, because, while Congress has indeed allocated that amount, successive administrations have not always spent all the money they were entitled to. Funds have been withheld in recent years due to Pakistan’s support for militant groups.
Furthermore, US funding has been declining for some time. Aid peaked in 2010, at the height of President Obama’s surge of troops into Afghanistan, but has more than halved since then. In 2011, bilateral relations collapsed following the US raid that killed Osama Bin Laden inside Pakistan, leading the Obama administration to suspend all aid temporarily. Trump’s decision is not unprecedented.
US aid to Pakistan falls into three categories: economic aid, security assistance (which helps Pakistan purchase military equipment, among other things), and the copious “Coalition Support Fund” (which reimburses Pakistan for counter-terrorism operations). Trump is only suspending military aid, which this year amounts to about $1.3 billion (but the total suspended could be as much as $2…