Lessening engagement of US with Pakistan

at 11:50 am
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New Delhi (NVI): When Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf met his US counterpart Jake Sullivan in Geneva a few days back, he had a complaint – there is “lesser engagement” by the Biden administration with Pakistan.

This comment by Yusuf during his first meeting with Sullivan, reported by Pakistan’s prominent newspaper The Dawn, gives an insight about the state of relationship between Islamabad and Washington.

After the first highest-level physical contact between the two countries since the Biden administration took office over 5 months back, the two sides issued a joint statement, saying they agreed to advance “practical cooperation”.

The two countries have been close allies for decades but for the last several years, the US has been unhappy with Pakistan over its dubious role on the issue of terrorism.

Yusuf’s observation about lessening of bilateral engagement with Pakistan by the new US administration assumes significance as Islamabad was expecting betterment of ties under President Joe Biden after the relationship suffered a big setback during the tenure of former President Donald Trump.

Trump had seen through Pakistan’s double standards on the issue of fight against terrorism and his anger and frustration was reflected in a tweet on January 1, 2018.

He wrote, “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

The Trump administration subsequently suspended security assistance to Pakistan, which was estimated to be of the tune of 900 million dollars.

The intent behind the security assistance was that Pakistan would end support to terror outfits Afghan Taliban and Haqqani group, which are based in Pakistan and have been targeting American troops and assets in Afghanistan.

The Trump administration had taken the decision to suspend aid in frustration as it found that two terror groups continued to use sanctuaries in Pakistan to launch attacks in Afghanistan, killing American, Afghan and other troops. The US had said at that time that the aid would remain suspended till Pakistan takes decisive action against these two terror groups.

As a further setback to Pakistan, the Biden administration announced just a few days back that it has decided to continue with the suspension of the aid.

The US began to downgrade strategic ties with Pakistan after it realised that it continued to support terror groups hostile to American interests, particularly in Afghanistan.

A key indicator in this regard was the hosting of Al-Qaeda chief and the world’s most wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden by Pakistan, literally in its backyard near Islamabad, for 8 years while the US was hunting for him all over Afghanistan.

The Americans finally could track him down by keeping Pakistan, its army and notorious intelligence agency ISI in the dark, and the dreaded terrorist mastermind was killed in a daring covert operation by the US special forces in Abbotabad in Pakistan in 2011.

Another example was the killing of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour by the US in a drone attack in Pakistan’s Balochistan province in May 2016, while keeping the Pakistani establishment in the dark.

Over the next years, the US cut both military and economic aid to Pakistan sharply.

In 2011, Pakistan used to receive 3.5 billion dollars in the military and economic aid from the US but by 2016, under the Obama administration, it was reduced to 1 billion dollars.

In March 2016, Chairman of US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Republican Senator Bob Corker also opposed 430 million dollar funding to Pakistan for purchase of F-16 fighter planes.

In September 2016, Secretary of Defence Ash Carter refused to authorize 300 million dollars in military reimbursements to Pakistan, citing the limited gains the country has made fighting the militant Haqqani network, which is based in the country’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

The approval of such funding used to be mostly routine in the past.