US Congress panel to propose tougher riders on civil, military aid to Pakistan

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Reports have emerged that a key US Congressional panel is going to put forward a proposal wherein it will be seeking tougher riders on US’ civil and military aid to Pakistan and make such assistance conditional to Islamabad showing satisfactory progress in the fight against terrorism.

The tougher language on Pakistan forms part of the 2018 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations draft bill which will be considered by the House Appropriations Committee later on Thursday. The bill provides $47.4 billion in both regular discretionary and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding.

This is $10 billion below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level, when counting additional funds provided in the Security Assistance Appropriations Act of 2017.

Within this amount, the OCO funding totals $12 billion, which supports operations and assistance in areas of conflict such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

“In the wake of ever-growing international threats and challenges — such as North Korea’s recent missile test — it is more important than ever for the US to invest in robust diplomatic and global efforts to ensure stability around the world and the security of our nation and our allies,” House Appropriations Committee chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen said.

The draft bill circulated among the members of the House Appropriations Committee said that none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act under the headings Economic Support Fund, International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement, and Foreign Military Financing Programme for assistance for the Pakistani government may be made available unless the Secretary of State certifies and reports to the Committees that Islamabad is taking action against terrorist groups.

As per the draft, the Secretary of State is asked to certify that Pakistan is cooperating with the United States in counter-terrorism efforts against the Haqqani Network, the Quetta Shura Taliban, Lashkar e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, al- Qaeda, and other domestic and foreign terrorist organisations, including taking effective steps to end support for such groups and prevent them from basing and operating in Pakistan and carrying out cross border attacks into neighbouring countries.

The Secretary of State is also required to certify that Pakistan is not supporting terrorist activities against United States or coalition forces in Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies are not intervening extra- judicially into political and judicial processes in Pakistan.

The certification needs to include that Pakistan is not financing or otherwise supporting schools supported by, affiliated with, or run by the Taliban or any designated foreign terrorist organisation and that Islamabad is preventing the proliferation of nuclear-related material and expertise.

While the Secretary of State has the authority to waive of these conditions in the name of national interest, the draft bill says that funds appropriated by this Act under the heading Foreign Military Financing Programme for assistance for Pakistan may be made available only to support counter- terrorism and counter-insurgency capabilities in Pakistan.

This means that Pakistan would be able to get F-16 fighter jets with American aid.

In a statement, State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee chairman Hal Rogers said the US maintains its global leadership position through iron-clad diplomatic partnerships, a strong national defence, and unwavering efforts to fight terrorism and transnational crime.

“Our ability to continue investments in diplomacy and development, alongside our military, makes our nation stronger and safer,” Rogers said.

“This bill provides robust funding to support our allies and partners in the fight against terrorism and countering Russian aggression, prioritises resources needed to keep US personnel safe, and strengthens oversight measures to provide accountability to the US taxpayer,” he said.

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