Pentagon witdraws $300M in funding to Pakistan's military

Pakistani demonstrators shout anti-US slogans at a protest in Quetta

Lieutenant-Colonel Kone Faulkner, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the aid cuts had been prompted by "a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy".

Stressing on rapprochement, Shah stated Pakistan wants to rid region of the menace of terrorism.

The US stoppage of $300 million was the money it owed to Pakistan in Coalition Support Funds (CSF), adding that it can not be described as American aid.

Faulkner added the funds would be redistributed to other "urgent priorities", pending congressional approval.

He said the other $500 million in Coalition Support Funds was stripped by Congress from Pakistan earlier this year, to bring the total withheld to $800 million.

Pakistan has received more than $33 billion in US assistance in the past 16 years, including more than $14 billion in Coalition Support Funds.

Sameer Lalwani, co-director of the South Asia programme at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington, said: "It is a calibrated, incremental ratcheting up of pressure on Pakistan". The focus in Afghanistan should be a peace process with the Afghan Taliban, and while Pakistan has consistently expressed an interest in supporting a peace process, it can only do so much in the face of political disarray in Afghanistan and reluctance in the United States to engage the Taliban in dialogue.

Will the United States strategy work? The move has surely been coordinated across the Trump administration and now what remains to be seen is if Secretary Pompeo will try and bully the Pakistani leadership during his visit or if he will be deployed in a more traditional good-cop diplomatic role. While Washington insists that Pompeo raised the issue of terrorism Islamabad says the issue did not figure in the telephonic talk.

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In an exclusive interview to Jang and The News, the federal minister said that the upcoming election in India and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's anti-Pakistan stance were the reasons behind the government's low expectations to immediately mend ties with its neighbour.

Talking to media at Foreign Office on Sunday evening, he said Pak-US relations were at the standstill when the new government came to power as the previous government did nothing to improve them.

The issue of the cut funding could be a sticking point, at least on the semantics of the term "aid".

Pakistan´s support for these groups must end, Washington says.

Yet the United States has repeatedly treated this as aid, and has withheld, frozen, or outright cut the funding several times in the past. "This is the money they (US) are supposed to reimburse, but now either they are not willing or unable to pay back", Mr. Qureshi said during a hurriedly called press conference on Sunday after the USA announced the decision. But the USA must avoid a total break with Islamabad given that Pakistan is a nuclear power.

Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves have plummeted over the past year and it will soon decide on whether to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or friendly nations such as China.

In a separate move, the USA is also ending all funding for the UN's Palestinian refugee agency - the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) - which White House officials described as "irredeemably flawed".

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