Pentagon trims Pakistan military aid over Haqqani inaction

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The US Defense Department has withheld $50 million in Pakistan military payments after Pentagon chief Jim Mattis determined Islamabad is not doing enough to counter the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, an official said on Friday.

“Secretary Mattis has informed congressional defense committees that he was not able to certify that Pakistan has taken sufficient actions against the Haqqani network to permit full reimbursement of Fiscal Year 2016 Coalition Support Funds,” Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said.

The United States had allotted $900 million in military aid to Pakistan through the special fund, which is used to reimburse the costs of counter-terror operations.

The country has already received $550 million of that, but Mattis’s decision means $50 million will be withheld. The remaining $300 million was rescinded by Congress as part of a broader appropriations act.

“This decision does not reduce the significance of the sacrifices that the Pakistani military has undertaken over previous years,” Stump said.

The United States has authorized Pakistan to receive up to $900 million again this year.

“Pakistan still has time to take action against the Haqqani network in order to influence the secretary’s certification decision in FY17,” Stump added.

The Pentagon decision comes as the United States is trying to figure out a strategy to break the stalemate with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Mattis has indicated he wants the plan to incorporate much of the broader region and not merely focus on Afghanistan.

“This decision does not prejudge the conclusions of the White House review of South Asia strategy, which is still ongoing,” Stump said.

The Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, based in the border areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan, has long been thought to have ties to Pakistan’s shadowy military establishment.

Led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also the Taliban’s deputy leader, they have carried out numerous operations deep in the heart of Kabul, and have been blamed by Afghanistan for a devastating truck bombing that killed more than 150 people in the capital in May.

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