US proposes $336 mn aid to Pak, down by $10 mn

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US President Donald Trump has proposed $256 million in civilian and $80 million in military aid to Pakistan, down about $10 million, in the annual budget, but linked the defence assistance to Islamabad’s action against terror safe havens on its soil.

The proposed aid is the part of a $4 trillion annual budget for the fiscal 2019 beginning October 1.

The proposal of aid to Pakistan comes weeks after Trump administration suspended nearly $2 billion in security assistance to Islamabad due to its inability to take action against terrorist groups operating from its soil.

The White House has said it would consider lifting the freeze if it sees action by Pakistan against terrorist groups.

The budgetary proposal says that the military aid depends on Pakistan taking action against terrorist safe havens.

“The budget requests $256 million for Pakistan in economic and other assistance to help increase stability, promote economic growth and create opportunities for US businesses,” said the annual budgetary proposals sent by the White House to the Congress.

The Budget requests $80 million in Foreign Military Financing assistance to enhance Pakistan’s counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency capabilities, contingent on Pakistan taking appropriate action to expand cooperation in areas where US-Pakistan interests converge and to address areas of divergence, in line with the administration’s South Asia strategy, the White House said.

“Pakistan’s assistance in total is down about $10 million..,” Hari Sastry, Director of the Office of US Foreign Assistance Resources at the State Department, told reporters at a State Department news conference after the release of the budget proposals.

The budget furthers the US goal of a stable and secure South Asia by supporting the Afghan government and security forces in their fight against the Taliban insurgents and jihadist terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda and ISIS.

It requests more than $5 billion for continued US training and assistance for the Afghan security forces and would enable US forces to conduct counter-terrorism operations to ensure that the region cannot be used by jihadist, terrorist groups to plot transnational attacks against the US homeland, citizens overseas, or allies and partners.

“The budget also continues to include funding to support America’s partnership with Pakistan,” it said.

The budget’s more than $630 million for civilian assistance supports the President’s new strategy to empower the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, the White House said.

In addition, the budget strengthens and sustains improvements in education, health, governance and other sectors that are essential for securing a stable and prosperous Afghanistan.

It also allows the US to honour the pledge made at the Brussels conference on Afghanistan, which anticipated gradually declining assistance levels, it added.

Since taking office, Trump has been critical about Pakistan over its failure to rein in terror groups.

In his first tweet of the year, Trump had accused Pakistan of lying and deceiving America by sheltering terrorists while receiving billions of dollars in foreign aid.