- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The White House “very much wants to get security aid flowing again to Pakistan,” according to a high-level U.S. government source close to the Trump administration, who said President Trump’s budget for 2019 will have a line item for the aid.

But, the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity with The Washington Times on Wednesday, said the ball is in Islamabad’s court to show they’ve taken “new action” against certain terror group’s that currently have safe-haven along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

“This is really about the fact Pakistan just isn’t cracking down on the Haqqani network, the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba,” the source said. “If they can show that they’ve made a dent, specifically in Haqqani, a group that’s carrying out attacks inside Afghanistan and killing American soldiers there, the aid will get restored.”

The comments were more specific than anything the Trump administration has publicly demanded from Pakistan since suspending at least $900 million in security aid to Islamabad last month.

The source spoke with The Times a day after Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan more broadly told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the U.S. could resume the aid if the Pakistanis engage in “decisive and sustained actions to address our concerns, including targeting all terrorist groups operating within its territory, without distinction.”



Mr. Sullivan told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that U.S. officials “acknowledge the enormous sacrifices the Pakistani people and security forces have made to combat terrorism,” but he suggested the Trump administration is in no hurry to reopen the aid spigot.

A senior Pakistani official, meanwhile, told The Times in an interview Tuesday that Islamabad believes U.S.-Pakistan ties can be restored.

Speaking at the Pakistani embassy in Washington, Minister of Interior Ahsan Iqbal said that while his government could move away from Washington and alternatively buy weapons from China and Russia, Islamabad’s preference is to fix relations with America and keep buying from the United States.

But Mr. Iqbal suggested Islamabad has no interest in yielding to Washington’s demands on counterterrorism. He vehemently denied the claims that Pakistan is providing selective safe-haven to certain terror groups. “We are going after everyone. We have no favorites,” he said.

It remains to be seen when and whether the dispute might be resolved. Mr. Iqbal told The Times that the U.S. needs Pakistan if President Trump’s war plan for Afghanistan is to have a chance of succeeding.

The source, who spoke anonymously with The Times Wednesday, said there’s uncertainty around the situation, but emphasized that the White House does want the aid restored to Pakistan and Mr. Trump’s 2019 budget — slated for release some time later this month — will reflect it.

“Look,” said the source, “when Trump’s budget for the coming fiscal year gets revealed, you’re going to see that the line item for [Foreign Military Financing] for Pakistan is still in there. If the White House seriously wanted to keep this aid suspension going long term, wouldn’t they cut the FMF out of the budget?”

But the source added, just because the funding will be requested in the budget doesn’t mean the Pakistanis are definitely going to get it. “There still has to be a serious move by Islamabad to show they’ve taken action against these terror groups that they weren’t taking before.”

At specific issue, the source said, is the Haqqani network, the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba, the latter of which is a Pakistan-based extremist movement responsible for the deadly 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India — a nation the Trump administration has sought closer relations with over the past year.

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