Washington: Pakistan will continue to face a freeze in U.S. security assistance as it is yet to take “definitive action” against militant groups like the Taliban and the Haqqani network, a senior U.S. commander has said.
General Joseph Votel’s remarks came as the U.S. has stepped up pressure on Pakistan to do more in its fight against terrorism.
The U.S. withdrew about $2 billion in security assistance to Pakistan, accusing Islamabad of harbouring terror groups.
“That’s the current posture. And I would imagine, hopefully, in the future, well have an opportunity to [review],” Gen. Votel, Commander of the U.S. Central Command, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee when asked about the future of freeze of American security assistance to Pakistan.
Gen. Votel said the U.S. has started to see an increase in communication, information sharing and actions on the ground in response to specific U.S. requests.
“These are positive indicators,” he said.
“However, ongoing national counter-terrorism efforts against anti-Pakistan militants throughout the country have not yet translated into the definitive actions we require Pakistan to take against Afghan Taliban or Haqqani leaders,” he added.
“This problem is compounded by increased cross-border terrorist attacks and fires between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which hinders both countries abilities to coordinate on border security,” Gen. Votel said.
The U.S., he said, has preserved its valuable military-to-military relationship with Pakistan and attempted to increase transparency and communication with influential military leaders, while pressing its serious concerns about the country’s provision of sanctuary and support to militant and terrorist groups that target the U.S. personnel and interests.
“Achieving long-term stability in Afghanistan and defeating the insurgency will be difficult without Pakistan’s support and assistance,” he said.
Although most security assistance for Pakistan is currently suspended, since 2002 Pakistan has been among the largest recipients of U.S. provided Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education and Training (IMET), the general said.
Votel said to date Pakistan has also been reimbursed hundreds of millions of dollars in Coalition Support Funds (CSF) for counter-insurgency operations that support U.S. security objectives in the region.
The U.S. uses ground and air routes in Pakistan to deliver materiel to Afghanistan, he said, adding that “we also have options to utilize routes through the other Central Asian nations”.
Responding to a question, Gen. Votel said the pressure that the Trump administration has put on Pakistan has contributed to the recent positive response from Islamabad.
“I think what is also working right now is the approach that we have in place with them. I think we have tried to be very clear in terms of the things that we Pakistan to do for us. And what I have endeavoured to do — not always in a public way, but in a private way — is develop a relationship that allows us to provide feedback both ways,” he said.
There are things, frankly, that Pakistan has asked from the U.S. as well, he said. “So this is a two-way street here. It is my responsibility to make sure that we have feedback loops in place that go back and forth between the things that were doing to try support each other and moving forward in that regard,” Gen. Votel said.