US may deny millions in aid for Pakistan

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WASHINGTON: When Pakistani forces freed a Canadian-American family this fall held captive by militants, they also captured one of the abductors. United States officials saw a potential windfall: He was a member of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network who could perhaps provide valuable information about at least one other American hostage.
The Americans demanded access to the man, but Pakistani officials rejected those requests, the latest disagreement in the increasingly dysfunctional relationship between the countries. Now, the Trump administration is strongly considering whether to withhold $255 million in aid+ that it had delayed sending to Islamabad, according to US officials, as a show of dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s broader intransigence toward confronting the terrorist networks that operate there.
The administration’s internal debate over whether to deny Pakistan the money is a test of whether President Donald Trump will deliver on his threat to punish Islamabad for failing to cooperate on counterterrorism operations. Relations between the United States and Pakistan, long vital for both, have chilled steadily since the president declared over the summer that Pakistan ” gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror+ .”
The United States, which has provided Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid since 2002, said in August that it was withholding the $255 million until Pakistan did more to crack down on internal terrorist groups. Senior administration officials met this month to decide what to do about the money, and US officials said a final decision could be made in the coming weeks.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive discussions, did not detail what conditions Pakistan would have to meet to receive the aid. It was not clear how the United States found out about the militant’s arrest, but a US drone had been monitoring the kidnappers as they moved deeper into Pakistan.
Caitlan Coleman, an American, and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, were freed along with their children in an October raid after five years in captivity. Pakistani troops confronted Haqqani militants as they ferried the family across the tribal lands of northwest Pakistan.
The Trump administration has foreshadowed a cutoff in recent days with harsher language. Last week, in announcing his national security strategy, Trump again singled out Pakistan for criticism. ” We make massive payments every year to Pakistan+ ,” he said. “They have to help.”
Vice President Mike Pence reinforced that message in a visit to Afghanistan just before Christmas, telling cheering US troops that “President Trump has put Pakistan on notice.” The reaction of his audience was notable, analysts said, since the Pentagon has historically been one of Pakistan’s defenders in Washington because of its long-standing ties to the Pakistani military.

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