US cancels $300m Pakistan aid

'Taliban Khan': Opponents have attacked Imran Khan for his stance on the militants
‘Taliban Khan’: Opponents have attacked Imran Khan for his stance on the militants

The United States has cancelled $300m (€260m) of aid to Pakistan – just days before a visit by Washington’s top diplomat – amid US frustration that Islamabad is still doing too little to rein in Afghan insurgents.

The Pentagon said it would spend the military aid elsewhere because of a lack of Pakistani action in support of US troops in Afghanistan.

The US has long accused Pakistan, and particularly its military spy agency, of providing a safe haven and support to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The announcement of the cancelled aid came only days before US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to arrive in Pakistan with a request to help bolster Ashraf Ghani’s beleaguered Kabul government.

A year into Donald Trump’s revamped south Asia strategy to end the Afghan conflict, US officials say Islamabad has not done enough to clamp down on the Taliban or its Haqqani network faction.

The Taliban continues to control or threaten swathes of Afghanistan and recently launched one of its most ambitious attacks, overrunning parts of the city of Ghazni.

The money was withheld “due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the south Asia strategy”, Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said.

The US had already announced that it was freezing military aid after Mr Trump earlier this year blasted Islamabad for “lies and deceit”.

Aid will resume if Pakistan is more co-operative, US officials have suggested.

Mr Pompeo will be accompanied by America’s top military officer, Gen Joseph Dunford, for talks with Pakistan’s new prime minister, Imran Khan.

Any peaceful solution to America’s 17-year-long Afghan conflict relies on Pakistan’s help and the White House believes a crackdown by Islamabad could be pivotal in securing a peace settlement.

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Islamabad is likely to need US backing for an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout to ease its dire economic woes. US aid has also until now helped fund a military that consumes a fifth of Pakistan’s government budget.

Faraza Shaikh, a Pakistan expert at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in Chatham House, London, said: “[The visit] is important for both sides. As far as Pakistan is concerned, it is very closely tied to the dire economic crisis. If the country is forced to go to the IMF, it’s going to need the US onside.”

Mr Khan has often railed against US policy in the region and earned the moniker ‘Taliban Khan’ among political opponents for his supposed soft stance on militancy.

Since taking office as prime minister, he has said that he wants a more equal relationship with Washington. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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