US Suspends Millions In Security Assistance To Pak

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Washington: The US state department said on Thursday it was suspending security assistance to Pakistan until Islamabad takes action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, which Washington believes is destabilizing the region.

A state department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said she could not provide a dollar value for the suspended aid, but said it was in addition to the $255m in military aid it has already put on hold. Nauert said some of the aid could still be permitted if Islamabad takes decisive action against the groups.

“Today we can confirm that we are suspending … security assistance only to Pakistan at this time until the Pakistani government takes decisive action against groups including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. We consider them to be destabilizing the region and also targeting US personnel,” she told a regular news briefing.

The new action targets payments of so-called Coalition Support Funds that the US pays to Pakistan to reimburse it for its counter-terrorism operations. Those funds are typically paid later in the year, and already require US certification, so the effect of Thursday’s announcement was unclear.

The decision on security assistance came after US President Donald Trump lashed out at Pakistan in a New Year tweet, accusing the longstanding American ally of using “lies and deceit” to win US aid while harboring terrorists.

Also on Thursday, the state department accused Pakistan of severe violations of religious freedom. It announced that it was placing Pakistan on a special watch list, pursuant to 2016 legislation. The step does not carry any serious consequences.

Pakistan’s embassy in Washington and mission at the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

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