Pak envoy meets US secretary of defense at Pentagon

Pak envoy meets US secretary of defense at Pentagon

WASHINGTON: Pakistan's newly appointed envoy, Ali Jahangir Siddiqui, called on the US Secretary of Defense General James Mattis at the Pentagon on Monday.

Weeks after taking charge as the country's top diplomat here, this was Ambassador Siddiqui's first high profile meeting. The ambassador visited the Department of Defense along with the Pakistani Defence attache posted at the embassy. The meeting took place on Pakistan's request and the two representatives discussed issues related to regional security as well as stressed bilateral relations.

Although, details of the meeting between the secretary and Pakistan's ambassador were not shared publicly, various policy experts believe that the meeting remains important considering the strained relationship between the two countries. The Trump administration had already freezed financial aid to Pakistan alleging that Islamabad was not taking action against terrorist outfits including the Haqqani Network.

Lately, the US has also intends to drastically slash military assistance as well. The defence spending bill for 2019, passed by the Congress last week, recommended that the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) payments through fiscal year 2019 would limit the total amount of reimbursements to $350 million. The CSF amounts to Pakistan had been around 700 million dollars in the past.

The bill recognised that stability in the South Asia region cannot be achieved without stability in Pakistan and that engaging with the Government of Pakistan in order to ensure a strong, stable, and secure nation is consistent with the national security goals of the United States. It acknowledged that the relationship between the United States and Pakistan were under significant strain.

The provision requires quarterly reports on the use of authority, including descriptions of the efforts of each country reimbursed and assessments of the value of such efforts. "The provision would require the Secretary of Defence to submit a report 15 days prior to the provision of support under this authority to any country that has not previously received such support detailing the purpose, amount, and anticipated duration of the support along with a certification that the recipient country has increased border security and that the provision of such support is in the interest of United States national security.

This provision would also add several conditions on reimbursements to Pakistan. Finally, the provision would extend this authority through December 31, 2021," the bill categorically says.

However, it also added that there were a number of areas in which US and Pakistani national security interests converge and that it was important to continue to seek methods and processes by which coordination and cooperation can occur in transparent and mutually beneficial ways. It argued that the provision of CSF reimbursements should have certain conditions in the hope that such efforts may provide a productive framework for continued US-Pakistani engagement in the future.

The Trump administration had been concerned about implementing an extended peace framework in Afghanistan and sought Pakistan's help in brining the Taliban to the table to negotiate deal with the Afghan government. There have been reports that in the past few months the administration officials have had a couple of meetings with the Taliban that was supported and arranged through Pakistan.