WASHINGTON: US Congress was notified by the Trump administration that it was putting $255 million in military assistance into an escrow account that Islamabad can only access if it does more to crack down terror networks.
The dueling messages sent to Pakistan — promising aid but attaching strings if the country’s counterterror efforts fall short — are part of an increasingly confrontational turn in an alliance that has long been strained, the NYTimes reported Thursday.
Last week, in announcing his new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, Trump excoriated Pakistan. “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” Trump had said.
State Department officials told NYT that Trump’s promised changes would bring explicit conditions on military aid. Once Pakistan more aggressively pursues the Taliban and Haqqani network, the aid will be released — a determination to be made by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, officials said according to the report.
The $255 million in military assistance was the largest portion of $1.1 billion in aid authorized by Congress in 2016 that also included money for counternarcotics operations and health initiatives. If the State Department had failed to notify Congress in the next few weeks of its intention to spend the money, it would have been returned to the United States Treasury.
Rather than lose such a carrot, Trump administration officials said they wanted to use the money as incentive for Pakistan to change its behavior. By effectively putting the funds into escrow, the Trump administration also allows its own ongoing review of its policy toward Pakistan to continue unaffected by aid concerns, officials said Wednesday.