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On November 30, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held a telephonic conversation with US president-elect Donald Trump.
During the talk, US president-elect Trump told PM Sharif that he is ready to play any role that Pakistan desires to resolve the country’s outstanding problems. President-elect Trump also said Pakistan is “amazing with tremendous opportunities.” Earlier, in October 2016, Trump termed India-Pakistan tensions as a “very, very hot tinderbox” adding that he would “love to be the mediator or arbitrator if the two countries wanted him to.” Pakistan had welcomed Trump’s offer of mediation.
On November 18, US State Department spokesman, John Kirby said the outgoing Obama Administration had remained engaged with Pakistan because it believed engagement was a better option for fighting terrorism than declaring the country a state sponsor of terrorism.
Kirby also stressed that discussions with Pakistan had focused on the need to counter terrorist groups that are still active in Pakistan. The statement comes just after a move in the US Congress that called for declaring Pakistan ‘a state sponsor of terrorism’ due to its alleged links with some terrorist groups. The US has frequently pressed Pakistan to act against the militant Haqqani network. The US Congress blocked military aid to Pakistan earlier in 2016 for not taking adequate action against the Haqqani network. Islamabad rejects these allegations, maintaining that its forces are fighting all terrorist groups. Earlier in October 2016, Adam Szubin, a top US official warned Pakistan that the US would not “hesitate to act alone, when necessary, to disrupt and destroy these networks” in Pakistan.
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On October 20, Adam Szubin, acting US Under Secretary on Countering the Financing of Terrorism, called on Pakistan to go after all terrorist networks operating on its soil.
He also stressed that the “US will not hesitate to act alone when necessary to destroy and disrupt” militant networks. Criticising Pakistan’s top intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Szubin alleged that it was not acting against all the terrorist groups operating in Pakistan. He however acknowledged Islamabad’s efforts in countering “terrorist safe havens” in North Waziristan and termed Pakistan a “critical counter terrorism partner.” The US frequently blames Islamabad for not taking adequate steps against the Haqqani network. Pakistan has rejected these claims maintaining that it is targeting all militant infrastructures on its territory. The comments reflect a deep distrust between the two sides and come at a point when India has already stepped up efforts to isolate Pakistan in the international community. The Obama Administration is facing tough challenges with regard to its Afghanistan exit strategy. Obama’s plan for the withdrawal of international forces was dealt a severe blow after Afghan Taliban stepped up their offensive against the US and Afghan forces in 2014 when most of the international troops were pulled out of the country.
On October 6, John Kirby, US State Department spokesperson, said that the US does not support declaring Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism and that it would continue to work with governments in the region “as cooperatively” as possible to address “common threats and challenges” in the region.
Earlier on October 5, the White House shut down an ongoing petition that sought to designate Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism. The online petition was launched on September 2, 2016, by the Indian-American community in the US on the White House web page “We the People”. Declaring the petition “closed”, the White House announced that the “petition has been archived because it did not meet the signature requirements. It can no longer be signed”. On the Kashmir issue, Kirby noted that “our position has not changed” and that the US wants meaningful dialogue between Pakistan and India to resolve bilateral issues. Kirby also stressed that the US has full confidence in Pakistan’s capability to protect its nuclear weapons and to prevent terrorists from accessing them.
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According to Dawn on September 12, a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee’ hearing on US-Pakistan relations warned US lawmakers that sanctioning Pakistan or declaring it a state sponsor of terrorism could backfire.
In a related development on September 9, Dawn reported that experts told the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that Washington’s efforts to include India in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) could exacerbate the nuclear arms race in South Asia. Expressing concerns during a Congressional hearing held on September 8, 2016, the Committee’s Chairman Senator Bob Corker reiterated Pakistan’s lack of cooperation in defeating militant groups in Afghanistan. Senator Corker called it an “appropriate” decision for not allowing Pakistan to use US funds for buying F-16 aircraft adding that the US government and lawmakers were all “becoming more and more frustrated” with their relationship with Pakistan. However, some important senators, as well as experts, agreed that imposing sanctions or withdrawing aid would not help change the country’s policies. Meanwhile, following a 32 Congressional debate, the US State Department in a statement on September 13, 2016 noted that the US would continue to remain engaged with Pakistan and would continue economic assistance “long into the future.”
According to Dawn on September 11, US State Department Deputy Spokesman, Mark Toner, rejected suggestions that Pakistan-US relations are at their lowest level. However, he called it a challenging relationship.
Earlier, on September 8, US State Department Deputy Spokesman, Mark Toner, said that the US is not considering any proposal to sanction Pakistan over its alleged failure to stop cross-border terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan and India. Toner noted that Washington’s relationship with Islamabad was “strong and in both countries’ mutual interest. He said that we continue to urge the Pakistani government to take “concerted action against safe havens and terrorist groups” that threaten other countries in the region. Earlier in August 2016, the US Senate decided not to pay $300 million in military aid to Pakistan over its alleged reluctance to act against the Haqqani network.
Quoting an official US government document on the need for continuing aid to Pakistan in the fiscal year 2017, Dawn reported on September 5 that Pakistan remains critical to US counterterrorism efforts, nuclear non-proliferation, regional stability, the peace process in Afghanistan, and regional economic integration and development.
The document states that the US is enhancing Pakistan’s capabilities to address its counterterrorism and counterinsurgency challenges in FATA. However, it warns that Pakistan will continue to “face significant and broad challenges to its internal security in 2017.” It also notes that the US and Pakistan have a positive security partnership and are working to address security threats faced by both countries. The report comes amid growing distrust between the two sides with US officials blaming Islamabad for not acting against the Haqqani network. Earlier on August 4, 2016 the Pentagon decided not to pay $300 million from the Coalition 34 Support Fund (CSF) to Pakistan for not taking sufficient action against the Haqqani network. Islamabad denies the allegations.
According to Dawn on September 22, two US lawmakers moved a bill in the US Congress seeking to designate Pakistan a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’.
The bill, titled the Pakistan State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Act, was introduced by Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism Ted Poe, and co-sponsor, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. Congressman Poe alleged that Pakistan is not only an untrustworthy ally, 30 but it has also aided enemies of the US for years. The two US lawmakers also want the US to support Balochistan’s separation from Pakistan. However, the US State Department has assured Pakistan that it does not support the demand for an independent Balochistan and it respects the country’s unity and territorial integrity.
On September 19, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, met with US Secretary of State, John Kerry in New York on the sidelines of 71 st session of United Nations General Assembly.
During the meeting, the two sides expressed strong concern about the violence in Kashmir, particularly the Uri attack and urged all sides to reduce tensions. According to US State Department, Secretary Kerry also advised Pakistan on the need for restraint in its nuclear weapons programme. However, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, said that PM Nawaz has conveyed to the US that Pakistan would not accept a one-sided restraint on its nuclear weapons adding that any restraint should apply on both Pakistan and India. Earlier on August 12, 2016 Islamabad offered New Delhi a bilateral moratorium on nuclear testing. India, however, has rejected the proposal. Meanwhile, in a separate meeting with British PM Theresa May on the sidelines of UNGA session, Sharif reiterated his demand that human rights violations should be stopped in Kashmir and that Britain needed to play a role.
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Dawn reported on August 29 that Pakistan re-launched its campaign to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), after Pakistani Envoy in Washington, Jalil Abbas Jilani, approached the White House, the US State Department and Congressional leaders to support Pakistan’s NSG membership.
According to Dawn on August 25, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi told the UN Security Council (UNSC) that ‘Islamabad had taken exemplary measures’ to strengthen the country’s nuclear safety. Lodhi also reiterated Pakistan’s long-held position of ‘non-discriminatory and criteria-based approach’ for extending NSG membership. Highlighting the country’s efforts in strengthening the non-proliferation regime, Lodhi stressed that Pakistan had declared a unilateral moratorium on further nuclear testing and is also willing to ‘translate it into a bilateral arrangement with India’. On challenges to the non-proliferation regime, she cautioned against granting of any discriminatory waivers. Meanwhile, Ambassador Jilani, during his meetings in Washington assured the US leadership that Pakistan shares international concerns against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Islamabad has long maintained that granting countryspecific exceptions would adversely affect the non-proliferation regime and regional strategic stability. Earlier on August 12, Islamabad also renewed its offer to New Delhi to enter into a bilateral moratorium on nuclear testing. India has always rejected such efforts in the past with critics questioning India’s commitment towards non-proliferation objectives.
According to Dawn on August 23, a report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) noted that there had been a 73% decline in US security assistance to Pakistan and a 53% decrease in US economic assistance to Pakistan since 2011.
According to the report, US security aid to Pakistan declined from nearly $1.3 billion in 2011 to $343 million in 2015 while economic assistance fell from nearly $1.2 billion in 2011 to $561 million in 2015. Relations between Islamabad and Washington deteriorated in 2011 after a US raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad and a US air strike on a Pakistani border post in Salala that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The report, however, says, that Pakistan is still in the process of acquiring nearly $1.2 billion worth of weapon systems from the US since 2001. The deteriorating ties between Islamabad and Kabul have also led to freezing of some US aid to Pakistan. Earlier on August 4, the Pentagon decided not to pay $300 million in military reimbursements to Islamabad over its alleged reluctance to act against the Haqqani network. Authorities in Pakistan have denied these allegations even as the growing distrust between the two sides has also left many sceptical about the future of relations between Islamabad and Washington. · According to Dawn quoting the Intercept on August 21, the US National Security Agency (NSA) allegedly spied on Pakistan’s top civil and military leadership for decades. The documents from Edward Snowden – a former contractor for the NSA, revealed details of internet and phone surveillance by the US NSA in 2013. Reports claimed that the Malware SECONDDATE, also known as FOXACID, breached targets in Pakistan National Telecommunications Corporation’s (NTC), VIP division. It also said the targets contained documents pertaining to “the backbone of Pakistan’s Green Line communications network used by its civilian and military leadership”. The Malware SECONDDATE is one of the tools used by the NSA to hack into target computer systems and networks. This is not the first time the US been blamed for spying on other countries’ network systems. In October 2015, Berlin warned the US that trust between allies could be undermined after reports emerged that the US had spied on German Chancellor, Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.
On August 5, Mark Toner, deputy spokesperson, US State Department, said that the US wants Islamabad to target all militant groups.
Toner said the US also encourages closer cooperation between Islamabad and New Delhi in the fight against terrorists. The statement comes a day after the US Congress rejected $300 million from military aid to Pakistan for not acting against the Haqqani network.
On August 4, the Pentagon announced that it would not release $300 million from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) to Pakistan after US Secretary of Defence, Ashton Carter, declined to provide a certification to the Congress that Pakistan is taking sufficient action against the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network.
There is strong opposition within the US Congress for releasing funds to Pakistan. The Coalition Support Fund (CSF) reimburses costs to its allies for carrying out counter-terrorist and counterinsurgency operations. Relations between the two countries continue to decline with US officials blaming Islamabad for not acting against the Haqqani network. Islamabad denies these allegations maintaining it does not discriminate between the terrorists.
On August 3, the US placed a splinter group of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its leaders on a list of specially designated global terrorists.
In a related development on August 4, Pakistan welcomed a US decision to add the militant outfit Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA), splinter group of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to its list of global terrorists. Jamaatul Ahrar has staged multiple attacks in the country targeting civilians, religious minorities, military personnel and law enforcement agencies. The group was also responsible for the Easter bombing in a public park that killed 70 people in Lahore.
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On July 26, Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser,Sartaj Aziz met with US Secretary of State, John Kerry on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Ministerial meeting in Laos.
During the discussions, Kerry assured Aziz that the USis ready to improve and expand its partnership with Pakistan.According to acommuniqueissued in Islamabad,both Aziz and Kerry agreed on the importance of promoting the Afghan-led reconciliation process. Kerry also appreciated Pakistan’s ‘determined efforts’ to eliminate terrorist groups in the FATA region.
On July 23, the Republican election manifesto said the US would continue to treat Pakistan as an important ally in a sensitive region.
The manifesto termed the relationship with Pakistan as being necessary for US interests and gives it a prominent position in its plans for the South Asian region.The document further notes that the Republican Administration will work towards securing the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan. The document also points out that the conflicts in the Middle East and the region have created security challenges for Pakistanis. It also avoids blaming Pakistan for Afghanistan’s security challenges and instead criticises the US administration for failures in Afghanistan. The document,however, contains a veiled reference to Dr Shakeel Afridi,saying that the process of rebuilding ties with Pakistan “cannot progress as long as any citizen of Pakistan can be punished for helping the war on terror”.Republicans insist that Pakistan should release Shakeel Afridi and have launched several moves in the US Congress against his detention.
In a July 13 letter to a Republican congressman, Ted Poe, Pakistani Ambassador in Washington, Jalil Abbas Jilani, said that the slain Al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, considered Pakistan an enemy and made every effort to harm the country and its people.
He pointed out that the US leadership has clearly rejected any insinuation of Pakistan’s complicity in harbouring Osama bin Laden. The development is followed by Poe’s recent allegations against Pakistan in which he questioned the credibility of Pakistan’s military operations against the terrorist groups.
On July 13, a US Congressional panel during a Congressional hearing entitled “Pakistan: A Friend of Foe in the Fight Against Terrorism” demanded cutting off all US assistance to Pakistan to persuade Islamabad to act against the Afghan Taliban groups allegedly using its territory to launch operations into Afghanistan.
Some US lawmakers also suggested to declare Pakistan ‘a state sponsor of terrorism’ and imposing economic sanctions if Islamabad did not eliminate the alleged terrorist safe havens on its territory. However, Sartaj Aziz rejected accusations and describe it as ‘baseless concerns of some US legislators’. In response to accusations, Pakistan’s Embassy in Washington, said that positive counter-terrorism cooperation between the two countries has been widely acknowledged by the leadership of the two countries. US Congress’s repeated opposition against Pakistan is likely to add tensions in increasingly frayed ties between Washington and Islamabad. Earlier in April, 2016, US Congress also blocked financial aid worth US $430 million to Pakistan which stalled the sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.
Dawn reported on July 12 that Umar Mansour, alias Khalifa Mansour, alias Umar Naray, the mastermind of the Army Public School massacre, was killed in a US drone strike in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province.
The Commander of the Resolute Support Mission, General John Nicholson, also confirmed the death of Umar Mansour. Mansour was a member of the Tariq Geedar Group which was also involved in the January 20, 2016 Bacha Khan University attack that killed at least 20 people. Mansour was also responsible for the September 2015 attack on a Pakistan Air Force base in Peshawar in which 29 people were killed.
On July 14, Pentagon’s Press Secretary, Peter Cook acknowledged Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif’s commitment for taking strong action against the Afghan Taliban.
In a related development on July 12, US State Department spokesman, John Kirby, said that Pakistan’s counter terrorism efforts in FATA had reduced the ability of some militant groups to use the area as a base for insurgency in Afghanistan. Earlier on July 6, 2016 General Sharif asked his commanders and intelligence agencies to act against those who uses Pakistani territory to launch terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. Kirby also noted that Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif’s renewed commitment to countering violent extremism in Pakistan was important in the backdrop of President Obama’s decision to revise the US force posture in Afghanistan. US President Barack Obama announced plans to maintain 8,400 American troops in Afghanistan on July 6 2016. Initially the Obama Administration had planned to drop troop levels down from 9,800 to 5,500 troops by the end of 2016.
On July 4, a draft of the US Democratic Party’s election manifesto noted that the new Democratic Administration ‘will continue to push for an Afghan-led peace process and press Pakistan to deny all terrorists sanctuary on its soil’.
The manifesto noted that Hillary Clinton, if elected, would continue President Barack Obama’s foreign policies, particularly in South Asia. It also emphasised that the next Democratic Administration, besides pushing Pakistan to do more in the war against terror, would also seek a close strategic partnership with India.
On July 2, a four-member, bipartisan US Senate delegation led by Senator John McCain visited Pakistan and held talks with Pakistan’s civil and military leadership.
In a related development on July 2, Pakistan and the US agreed to carry forward their bilateral engagement and cooperation for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. The agreement was reached during a meeting between US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard Olson and Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry. The delegation also travelled to the North Waziristan region as part of the visit. Senator McCain appreciated the success achieved by Pakistan in its counter-terrorism campaign and called for joint efforts by the two countries to curb the menace of terrorism. He also lauded Pakistan’s role in the Afghan reconciliation process. The visit comes at a time when the relationship between the two sides continues on a downward trajectory with Washington blaming Pakistan for not doing enough to persuade the Taliban to renounce violence.
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Dawn reported on June 27 that Pakistan is looking for a paid lobbyist in the US following Washington’s refusal to subsidise an F-16 deal and its support to induct India into the NSG.
Pakistan Embassy’s spokesman in Washington Nadeem Hotiana also confirmed the reports. He, however, said the government had yet to take a final decision. The reports of hiring paid lobbyists continue to surface as Pakistan lacks support on Capitol Hill. Earlier, Locke Lord Strategies was hired in 2008 to lobby for Pakistan but Islamabad did not renew its contract with the firm as it failed to improve Pakistan’s image.
On June 21, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Olson, said that Pakistan’s concerns over India’s role in Afghanistan were ‘overestimated’, while urging Pakistan to focus its attention on fighting terrorists.
Olson said India has remained a ‘supportive partner for Afghanistan’ adding that it is providing a limited amount but important military assistance to Afghanistan. Noting that Pakistan has its own security concerns, Olson warned that Pakistan will not be secure, until it moves against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. Olson emphasised that the ongoing military operations in Waziristan had reduced militancy inside Pakistan, but criticised Islamabad for its reluctance to take strong action against terrorist networks that carry out attacks outside its territory. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesman dismissed Olson’s criticism saying Pakistan’s concerns over Indian influence in Afghanistan “are legitimate”. The US views India as a counterweight to a rising China and continues to encourage India’s increasing involvement in the region and in Afghanistan which is likely to exacerbate regional tensions.
Dawn reported on June 16 that the US Senate passed its draft of the National Defence Authorisation Bill, including a provision to set up a new fund to reimburse Pakistan for its efforts in the war against terrorism.
The Senate draft authorises $800 million for “Pakistan Security Enhancement Authorisation,” a provision which replaces the existing Coalition Support Fund (CSF) that was used to reimburse both Afghanistan and Pakistan for their efforts to combat terrorism. Pakistan has received a total of $3.1 billion since 2013 under the CSF. However, this fund expires in the current financial year, ending in October 2016. The bill, however, requires Pakistan to keep open ground communication lines to Afghanistan. $300 million is linked to taking action against the Haqqani network.
On June 14, Defence Secretary, Alam Khattak, informed a joint sitting of the Senate committees on defence and foreign affairs that Pakistan may consider a Jordanian offer to buy sixteen used F-16 jets.
The development comes as Pakistan aims to replace some of its ageing Block-15 variants of F16s which are due to be decommissioned in next few years. The Secretary also confirmed that the used F-16 jets offered by Jordan would be Block-30 variant, an older version of the Block-52s that Pakistan was getting from the US. On April 30, 2016, deal worth $699 million was obstructed after the US Congress refused to finance eight F-16s to Pakistan under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programme. The Congress linked the deal with Pakistani action against the Haqqani network, the release of Shakeel Afridi, and assurances about restraint on its tactical nuclear programme.
On June 11, US Statement Department spokesman, Mark Toner, said that Pakistan and India need to pursue closer relations with each other on the security front, adding better ties between the two neighbours would benefit the entire region.
The remarks came in the wake of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s June 8 speech to the US Congress where he said deeper US-Indian security cooperation should isolate anyone who supports terrorism that is “incubated in India’s neighbourhood.” Modi, however, avoided naming Pakistan. Agreeing with PM Modi’s views on terrorism, Toner said there was a need to work in a ‘concerted manner’ to address the issue. While US continues to press the nucleararmed rivals for increased security cooperation between them, there are apprehensions in Islamabad over US-Indo strengthening defence ties as it is feared these would tip the balance of power in India’s favour.
On June 10, Dawn reported that Pakistan and the United States blamed each other for strains in bilateral ties, yet both maintained their conciliatory side.
The development comes after a delegation led by Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Olson and Director for Pakistan and Afghanistan at the US National Security Council, Peter Lavoy held talks with Pakistani officials including Foreign Affairs Adviser, Sartaj Aziz in Islamabad. · In a related development on June 10, Commander Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson and US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Olson met with Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif in Rawalpindi. Pakistan conveyed a strong message to the US regarding the May 21, 2016 drone strikes in Balochistan saying it not only breached Pakistan’s sovereignty and principles of the UN Charter, but has also ‘vitiated bilateral ties’ and undermined Afghan peace efforts. Pakistan also cautioned the US that any such attack on Pakistani territory in the future would be detrimental to the bilateral relationship. In a separate meeting, General Sharif asked the US to act against Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) and Mullah Fazlullah in Afghanistan and reiterated Pakistan’s resolve to not allow Afghan and Indian intelligence agencies to foment terrorism in Pakistan. According to Islamabad, both the Afghan and Indian spy agencies are supporting and funding anti-Pakistan activities in the country. Responding to Pakistani concerns, the US highlighted the presence of Taliban and Haqqani network sanctuaries on Pakistani soil and said their presence not only threatens Pakistan and the region but also US national security interests. However, Islamabad stressed that it is operating against all militants and terrorists on its soil as per its National Action Plan (NAP). Pak-US ties have been strained ever since the US Congress blocked funds for the F-16 fighter jets. The distrust intensified further after the American drone strike killed Afghan Taliban’s chief, Mullah Mansour in Balochistan. At the same time concerns in Islamabad are also growing due to the US’s tightening strategic embrace of India. Earlier on June 9, Pakistani Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz warned the US over its increasing defence cooperation with India fearing it would disturb both the ‘conventional and strategic balance’ in South Asia.
On June 9, Dawn reported that Pakistan’s Ambassador to Washington DC, Jalil Abbas Jilani, in a letter addressed to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, formally asked the US Administration and Congress to support Pakistan’s application for joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
In a related development on June 10, the United States urged Pakistan to put its case before all 48 members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, instead of seeking individual endorsements for joining the NSG. Earlier on May 19, Pakistan’s Ambassador in Vienna submitted a formal application expressing her country’s desire to join the NSG. Islamabad insists it has taken numerous steps qualifying it for joining the NSG. Pakistan has also expressed its willingness to accept International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on all foreign supplied nuclear reactors and nuclear materials similar to the current IAEA safeguards in place on all of Pakistan’s civilian nuclear facilities. Nevertheless, Islamabad failed to get Washington’s support for its NSG bid even as US has vowed strong support for India’s inclusion into the cartel. Pakistan insists that granting country-specific exceptions would adversely affect the non-proliferation regime and regional strategic stability.
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Dawn reported on May 25 that the US Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Senator John McCain, approved a proposal to set up a new fund of $800 million to reimburse Pakistan for its efforts in the war against terror.
The proposed fund is different from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), which reimburses Pakistan for its support to US and coalition forces in Afghanistan. The new provision uses the same payment method. However, it emphasises both Pakistani and US national security interests. The new fund has also delinked Pakistan from Afghanistan. However, the bill requires Pakistan to keep open ground communication lines to Afghanistan for receiving payments from this fund. A sum of $300m is linked to taking action against the Haqqani network. Although, the US Senate has proposed setting up new funds for Pakistan, however, Islamabad does not enjoy support in the US Senate. Earlier in April 2016, chairman of the Senate’ Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Corker strongly opposed the use of any US funds for Pakistan to buy American F-16 fighter jets.
On May 21, the US House of Representatives passed several amendments seeking to restrict US military aid to Pakistan. The House passed the $602 billion National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA), on May 19, 2016.
However, members of the House of Representatives added three amendments related to Pakistan. The amendments seek to block $450 million in aid to Islamabad unless specific conditions are met. The bill requires Pentagon certification that Pakistan is conducting military operations to disrupt the Haqqani network, not letting the network use North Waziristan as a safe haven and actively coordinating with Afghanistan’s government to fight the network along their border. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s amendment adds an additional requirement that the secretary of defence certify to Congress that Pakistan is not using its military or any funds or equipment provided by the US to persecute minority groups seeking political or religious freedom. The NDAA-2017 also includes the ‘sense of the Congress’ that Shakil Afridi is an international hero and that Pakistan should release him from prison. Shakeel Afridi, a Pakistani doctor, was arrested by Pakistani authorities in 2012 and is believed to have been secretly helping the Central Investigation Agency (CIA) in tracing Osama Bin Laden. Pakistan 33 maintains that its courts would decide Afridi’s fate and has rejected any demands for his release. Meanwhile, strong opposition for Pakistan in both the US House of Representatives and Senate reflects Washington’s growing acrimony towards Islamabad. Experts in Pakistan have urged the government to review its policies vis-à-vis US.
Dawn reported on May 23 that Afghan Taliban chief, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, was killed during a US drone strike on May 21 in Balochistan’s Dalbandin district.
In a related development on May 21, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs, Tariq Fatemi summoned the US Ambassador in Islamabad, David Hale to express concern over the drone strike on Pakistani territory. Fatemi told Ambassador Hale that such actions would adversely affect the ongoing efforts for Afghan peace talks, while PM Sharif termed it an act ‘against the sovereignty of the state’. Also in a separate meeting on May 25, Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif warned David Hale that violation of sovereignty is detrimental to Pak-US ties. The drone strike targeting Mullah Akhtar Mansour was the most high-profile US incursion into Pakistan’s territory since the 2011 raid in Abbottabad which killed Osama bin Laden. Analysts fear the development would further strain Pak-US relations. The strike targeting Mansour came soon after the US, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China held another round of negotiations in Islamabad to discuss ways to revive the Afghan peace negotiations. However, there are concerns that Mansour’s death would cause further division in the Taliban circles and will also trigger a leadership struggle among the Afghan Taliban. Mansour was heading the Afghan Taliban since the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar was announced in July 2015.
On May 17, the eighth round of the Pakistan-US Security, Strategic Stability and Nonproliferation Working Group (SSS&NP) was held in Islamabad.
Foreign Secretary, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, led the Pakistani side and the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Rose Gottemoeller represented the US delegation. During discussions, both sides expressed concerns over the ‘nuclear and missile developments’ in South Asia and called for a resolution of outstanding disputes between India and Pakistan. These concerns come in the wake of Indian tests of supersonic interceptor missile and nuclear capable K-4 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles. Concerns remain high, particularly in India’s neighbourhood that such developments will exacerbated arms race in the region. Pakistan also reiterated its proposal for the Strategic Restraint Regime (SRR) in South Asia. During the meeting, the US pressed Pakistan to begin negotiations on Fissile Material Cut-off 34 Treaty (FMCT). Islamabad reiterated its demand for a broader Fissile Material Treaty (FMT) requiring member states to reduce existing stockpiles of fissile material. The US has been mounting pressure on Pakistan to put a restraint on its tactical nuclear programme, which Pakistan believes is necessary for deterring India’s ColdStart Doctrine. Pakistan also expressed its confidence regarding its credentials to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG).
Dawn reported on May 16, that the US State Department assured Pakistan that it does not support the demand for an independent Balochistan, and it respects the country’s unity and territorial integrity.
The statement came in the wake of media reports which said that some Baloch separatists had held two separate seminars in Washington D.C asking the US government and legislators to 36 back their struggle for an independent Balochistan. Although the situation in Balochistan has considerably improved in recent years, however, separatist movements in the province still remains a major security concern in the country.
According to Dawn on May 14, Pakistani Ambassador in Washington, Jalil Abbas Jilani made clear that Pakistan alone could not be blamed for the Afghan situation which is the result of the collective failure of the international community.
Ambassador Jilani’s statement comes in the backdrop of reports in the US media criticising Pakistan’s negative role in Afghanistan. He said that instead of putting the entire blame on Pakistan, the US media should focus on the Afghan refugee issue and lack of border management as the reasons for regional instability. There are growing concerns in Islamabad over the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan even as authorities in Pakistan are making efforts for strengthening border management controls between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
On May 13, the US State Department spokesman, John Kirby, said that United States has an important and vital relationship with Pakistan and it cannot be ignored even if it is ‘complicated’.
While talking about the significance of the US-Pak relation, Kirby noted that the two countries have shared threats and shared concerns and interest in the region. He added that Pakistan and Afghanistan also face shared threats from terrorist networks and said the US wants to see an improvement in dialogue and cooperation between the two countries. The US State Department comments come after Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser, Sartaj Aziz, on May 12, conceded that relations with the US have been under stress because of conditions Washington has attached to the funding of F-16 fighter jets sale.
On May 12, Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser, Sartaj Aziz, told Pakistan’s Senate that relations with the US had been under stress for the past three months because of conditions that Washington had attached to the funding of F-16s sale.
In a related development on May 11, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani said that ‘the parliament of Pakistan has serious concerns and reservations’ over the nature of the relationship between Washington and Islamabad. Rabbani also said that the parliament remains concerned over the US tilt towards India. Meanwhile, Aziz said that the US action might have been caused by concerns raised by Washington on the nuclear issue, which had been categorically rejected by Pakistan. He said Pakistan has also rejected frequent demands, especially by the US Congress, for the release of Shakil Afridi. Aziz regretted that the US officials and Congress have been accusing Pakistan of supporting the Haqqani network without providing evidence. However, Aziz said, the Haqqani network issue remained the top US concern adding that the Indian lobby in the US, had also been highly pro-active against Pakistan using the Pathankot incident against Pakistan in the US. The adviser, however, assured the Senate that Pakistan had been making efforts to finalise the F16 deal with the US Administration. After a brief thaw in Pak-US relations, the two countries are again witnessing a downward trajectory in bilateral ties. Pakistani lawmakers have termed the US a friend that cannot be trusted anymore while the US lawmakers have termed Pakistan ‘an uncertain ally.’
On May 12, US State Department official, Elizabeth Trudeau, said that the US Administration wants Pakistan to act against the Haqqani network, adding that the US had clearly conveyed its views to Pakistan on the activities of the Haqqani network.
In a related development on May 7, Dawn reported that a US congressional panel endorsed a draft bill seeking to block $450 million in aid to Pakistan for failing to take action against Afghanistan’s militant Haqqani Network. 30 The NDAA 2017 was passed by the House Armed Services Committee for reimbursement and support of $450 million authorised for Pakistan during the period from October 1, 2016 to December 31, 2017. It would not be eligible for a national security waiver unless the Defence Secretary certifies that Pakistan continues to conduct military operations against the Haqqani network in North Waziristan. US Secretary of Defence would also need to certify that Pakistan is showing full commitment in stopping the militants from using its territory. He would, additionally, need to certify that Pakistan is cooperating with Afghanistan to restrict the movement of militants, including the Haqqani network. Efforts to block $450 million in aid to Pakistan demonstrates growing animosity between the US and Pakistan. Pakistan says it had destroyed all militant hideouts in North Waziristan since the operation Zarb-e-Azb was started in June 2014. Pakistan also insisted that its security forces have been carrying out operations against all terrorist groups on its soil “without discrimination.”
On May 9, Defence Secretary, Alam Khattak met with Commander US Central Command, General Joseph Votel, in Rawalpindi and raised concern over US Congressional opposition to granting of funding for the sale of F-16s to Pakistan.
Alam Khattak said that the aircraft are important for Pakistan’s fight against terrorism. He also said that the ongoing operation Zarb-e-Azb and National Action Plan both demonstrate Pakistan’s commitment to the fight against terrorism and extremism. During the meeting, Khattak also inquired about the reimbursement mechanism under Coalition Support Fund (CSF) beyond 2016. Meanwhile, General Votel assured Pakistan of continued US support in training, equipment and necessary funding for combating terrorism. Earlier on April 30 2016, the US Congress refused to subsidise the sale of eight F-16s to Pakistan despite the Obama Administration’s insistence that the fighter jets are crucial to Pakistan’s counterterrorism operations.
Dawn reported on May 9 that the US State Department informed the US Congress that it is critical for the State Department to maintain flexibility to provide assistance for Pakistan.
The statement comes after the Congress’ decision to stop the Obama Administration from providing foreign military financing (FMF) facility to Pakistan to buy eight F-16s. Also, a Congressional panel endorsed a draft bill to block $450 million in aid to Pakistan for failing to take action against the Haqqani network and allowing terrorists to use its territory for carrying out attacks in Afghanistan. The strong opposition in Congress highlights the growing tensions in Pak-US relations with Islamabad rejecting allegations that the country is allowing terrorists to use its territory.
On May 2, US State Department spokesman, John Kirby, said that Pakistan would have to pay from its own funds if it wants to purchase F-16 fighter jets.
In a related development on May 2, Dawn reported that Pakistan’s Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar told David Hale, the US Ambassador in Islamabad, that Pakistan cannot buy the F-16 jets from its resources and cautioned that if the stalemate over funding is not resolved it may consider buying some other fighter aircraft to meet its requirements. The original arrangement on the sale of F-16 jets required Pakistan to pay about $270m while it was decided that the remaining amount of approximately $430 million would be paid by the US foreign military financing budget. The deal met a deadlock after top US lawmakers led by Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, barred the use of US funds for the deal blaming Islamabad for not taking enough action against the Haqqani network. Others opposed the deal arguing the F-16s could be used against India rather than for fighting terrorism. The development indicates growing anti-Pakistani sentiment amongst US lawmakers who have called Islamabad an uncertain partner in the “war against terrorism.” PM Sharif’s Special Assistant, Tariq Fatemi, stressed that the Congress “lacks sufficient appreciation for Pakistan’s efforts” to fight terrorism and that Pakistan has so far spent approximately US $2 billion on counter terrorism operations, using its own resources. · On May 4, US State Department spokesman, John Kirby said that the US has ‘absolutely no intention’ of diminishing its relationship with Pakistan. The statement comes in the backdrop of reports that Pakistan would get the fighter jets from elsewhere after the deal with the US collapsed. Kirby said these are sovereign decisions that nations make with respect to their defence needs. However, defence analysts say not subsidising the F-16 sale could have implications for Pak-US ties especially when the US is advancing its defence collaboration with New Delhi. There are concerns in Pakistan that the US tilt towards India will turn the balance of power in India’s favour adversely affecting the strategic balance in South Asia.
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Dawn reported on April 30 that the US Congress has decided not to subsidise the sale of eight F-16s to Pakistan until Islamabad takes “specific actions” against the militants who use Pakistani territory to carry out attacks inside Afghanistan.
As a result, Pakistan government will have to pay more than $700 million for the eight F-16s if the country still proceeds to buy the fighter jets. The original arrangement required Pakistan to pay about $270m while it was decided that the remaining amount of approximately $430 million would be paid by the US foreign military financing budget. However, Pakistan embassy in the US said that neither side had taken a final decision as yet; while the State department insist that the Obama Administration is still in favour of selling the fighter jets to Pakistan as it believes it is in the national interest of the US. The US government has maintained that the fighter jets bolster Pakistan’s precision-strike capability crucial to counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations. Meanwhile, US lawmakers have been mounting pressure on Pakistan to act against Taliban networks, particularly the Haqqani network. and have been accusing Islamabad of providing a safe haven to the Taliban. Some top US lawmakers have also said that Pakistan would use the jets against India rather than for combating terrorism. Stiff resistance from the US on F-16’s sale to Pakistan indicates US distrust in Pakistan, which observers say will be detrimental to the interests of both countries. There are also concerns that US unwillingness to subsidise the F-16 sale will have negative repercussions on the US-Pak relations especially when the US remains amongst India’s top arms source and is advancing its defence collaboration with New Delhi.
Dawn reported on April 29, that several members of the US Congress launched a multi-pronged attack on Pakistan, questioning its policies and priorities.
The concerns expressed by some members of the US Congress emerged as the Obama Administration has proposed a $742 million aid package for Pakistan during the fiscal year 2017. Congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chaired the hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and accused Pakistan of not acting against the Taliban. She said “Pakistan is a direct contributor to the Taliban success.” However, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson reminded the US lawmaker that Pakistan had made great progress in recent years in addressing domestic challenges for countering terrorism. Highlighting US concerns over Dr Shakeel Afridi’s arrest, another Congressmen Brad Sherman asked the Obama Administration about Pakistan’s possible reaction if the US suspends all aid to Pakistan until Afridi is released. In response, a senior Obama administration official Donald Sampler said that the US Administration had raised this issue at the highest levels in Pakistan. Shakeel Afridi was running a fake vaccination programme in Pakistan and was secretly working for the Central Investigation Agency (CIA) in the country. He is believed to have assisted Americans in their search for Osama bin Laden and was sentenced to imprisonment for 23 years in 2012 for his 31 alleged links with terrorist groups operating in the country. US officials have also publicly acknowledged that Afridi had worked for CIA. In 2015, the US withheld approximately three million dollars to pressurise Pakistan over Afridi’s release. US lawmakers also urged the US government to reconsider its decision to sell eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, fearing it could use the fighter jets against India and not to fight terrorism. However the US government has repeatedly said that the sale of F-16’s to Pakistan is ‘in line with Pak-US bilateral counterterrorism cooperation.’
On April 27, Dawn reported that US investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, in his new book titled “The Killing of Osama bin Laden” once again claimed that he believes Islamabad helped Washington kill Osama bin Laden.
Hersh reiterated his claim that Pakistan had detained OBL in 2006 and kept him prisoner with the backing of Saudi Arabia. He noted that Pakistan was complicit in the US Navy Seals raid and said there was an understanding between the US and Pakistan that the US Navy Seals would raid bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad but make it look as if Pakistan had no prior knowledge about the operation. He further claimed that the then Army and ISI chiefs had made this deal with the Americans, which had upset other Pakistani generals. Seymour Hersh had made a similar claim in May 2015 contradicting the US government’s version of OBL raid. However, some analysts argue that there is little evidence to suggest that OBL was detained by Pakistan and that Pakistan had prior knowledge of the raid.
On April 25, US State Department’s Press Office Director, Elizabeth Trudeau asked Pakistan to take concrete action against the Haqqani network.
Trudeau also said that Islamabad has continued to allow terrorists to use its soil. The comments came in the wake of an attack outside a building of the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Kabul that killed 64 people. Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Afghanistan’s deputy presidential spokesman, Dawa Khan Menapal accused Pakistan for the attack saying “the attack was planned by the Haqqani Network with the help of foreign circles in Pakistan”. However, Pakistan’s Foreign Office condemned the attack and reiterated the country’s commitment to promoting peace in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, experts are highlighting concerns that such accusations are likely to strain Afghan-Pak ties, which are already marred by years of mistrust.
According to Dawn on April 16, Pakistan’s Foreign Office dismissed media allegations over the US government’s declassified documents alleging Pakistan’s involvement in facilitating a suicide bomb attack on CIA operatives at the Chapman base in Afghanistan in December 2009.
Earlier this month, a declassified US government document was published in the US media, claiming that a Pakistani intelligence officer paid $200,000 to the Haqqani network to facilitate a deadly suicide bomb attack on CIA operatives in Afghanistan, which killed at least seven CIA operatives. However Islamabad rejected such claims calling it ‘preposterous’ and a government spokesperson said ‘Pakistan was deeply saddened when American lives were lost at the Chapman facility in 2009’. The Chapman base attack was claimed by banned militant organisation TTP which has been carrying out a series of violent attacks in Pakistan over the years killing numerous civilians and security personnel.
Speaking at the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York on April 8, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said that both Pakistan and India are friends and partners of the US and there is no Indo-Pak hyphenation from its perspective.
Carter also stressed that the US has a ‘whole global agenda’ with India, covering all issues. He acknowledged Pakistan as an important security partner of the US and said Washington is closely working with Pakistan on issues related to terrorism and Afghanistan. Ashton Carter also described the Obama Administration’s “Asia Pacific rebalance” and Modi government’s “Act East Asia” as a “strategic handshake”, between the US and India. The statement came ahead of his three-day visit to India. The visit is Carter’s second to India in less than a year.
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On March 31, US Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Rose Gottemoeller, said that the US has ‘a very solid cooperation’ with Pakistan on nuclear security issues and plans to continue this collaboration.
The Under-Secretary also stated that Pakistan now has ‘quite a mature capability` of defending its nuclear weapons and installations. The remarks come at the beginning of the last Nuclear Security Summit in Washington D.C. She also acknowledged Pakistan’s Nuclear Security Centre of Excellence. However, she described the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons as a concern but said that this concern was not focused on Pakistan alone. According to Pakistan “TNWs provide the third (tactical) element of Pakistan’s full-spectrum deterrence”. The US has been mounting pressure on Pakistan to put a restraint on its tactical nuclear programme, which Pakistan believes is necessary for deterring India’s limited war doctrine.
On March 30, US President Barack Obama called Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and expressed grief over the Lahore bomb attack.
President Obama acknowledged PM Nawaz’s leadership in the fight against terrorism and offered cooperation to Pakistan on countering terrorism. Following the attack, Pakistani PM reiterated to fight terrorism until the menace is completely rooted out from the country. PM Sharif also emphasised that the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan has been broken. Pakistan has repeatedly claimed that its security forces have completely destroyed the militant network in the country. However, recent militant attacks in Pakistan highlight significant challenges to Pakistan’s internal security situation.
On March 28, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cancelled his scheduled visit to the US to attend the Fourth Nuclear Security Summit.
On March 30, US State Department spokesman, John Kirby, said that the US supports PM Nawaz Sharif`s decision to cancel his US visit, adding that the current situation in Pakistan required him to stay at home. John Kirby also said that militants in Pakistan had increased attacks on soft targets as they face ‘pressure’ following operation against them by the Pakistani security forces. PM Sharif was scheduled to attend the Nuclear Summit on March 31, 2016. However, after deteriorating security situation in the country, Pakistan’s Foreign Office announced that Special Assistant to the PM, Tariq Fatemi would represent Pakistan at the summit.
On March 21, Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif, met with the top commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson at General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi.
During the meeting, both sides discussed matters related to regional security with particular emphasis on coordination along the Pakistan Afghanistan border and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. General Nicholson informed General Raheel that the Afghan government was facing intense domestic pressure since the peace talks failed to achieve any considerable progress. Meanwhile, reassuring the US commander of his personal commitment to the process, General Raheel said that Pakistan had already stepped up its efforts in bringing Taliban to the negotiating table. The efforts to revive the peace talks faced a blow after Taliban rejected any participation in the talks with the Afghan government. General Sharif also asked the US general to mount pressure on Kabul to cooperate with Pakistan on issues relating to action against sanctuaries of Pakistani militants on Afghan soil and border management.
Quoting a Jane’s Defence Weekly report, Dawn reported on March 15 that Pakistan would seek to purchase another 10 F-16s from the US if the existing deal for eight fighter jets is successfully concluded.
Media reports citing Pakistani officials revealed that Pakistan Air Force needs to retire 190 planes from its current fleet by 2020. Authorities in Pakistan have also pointed towards India’s rapid increase in defence purchases. Pakistani officials insist that India’s growing defence expenditure is pushing Pakistan to acquire matching technology in order to maintain a balance of power in the region. India plans to replace its current fleet of planes with fifth generation aircraft by 2020. Earlier, in January 2016, France agreed to sell 36 Rafale fighter jets to India during French President Francois Hollande’s visit to New Delhi.
According to Dawn on March 10, Pakistan’s Ambassador, Jalil Abbas Jilani, reminded US lawmakers that terrorists have killed thousands of Pakistani soldiers and civilians only because the country supports the US-led war against terrorists.
Ambassador Jilani also wrote a letter to Republican Senator, Rand Paul and referred to a US intelligence document, citing Osama bin Laden asking his followers to attack Pakistan due to its partnership with the US. Senator Paul had moved a resolution in the US senate to halt the sale of F-16 to Pakistan, calling Pakistan “an uncertain ally”. However, the resolution was turned down in the US Senate. Jilani also said that the US support for Pakistan remained critical for its own security. Despite some US lawmakers’ strong opposition against Pakistan on diplomatic front, Pakistan’s recent efforts to fight a range of terrorist groups on its territory including the Haqqani network was seen as a positive development in Pak-US bilateral relations.
On March 10, the US Senate rejected a resolution to block the proposed sale of eight F16 aircraft to Pakistan.
In a related development on March 11, Pakistan’s deal to purchase eight F-16 jet fighters from the US became effective. Pakistan welcomed the US Senate’s vote in rejecting a measure to block the sale of F-16 fighter jets. 71 Senators out of 100 voted to reject the resolution moved by Republican Senator Rand Paul to block the proposed sale of upgraded F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan by invoking a legislation known as Arms Export Control Act. Senator Rand Paul, a vocal critic of American foreign aid to Pakistan previously introduced a resolution to cut off all US aid to Pakistan and termed Pakistan an ‘uncertain ally’ of the US. Obama Administration however maintains that the fighter jets will assist Pakistan’s ongoing fight against terrorism.
On March 9, US State Department spokesman, John Kirby said that Pakistan is capable of protecting its nuclear weapons.
The recent acknowledgement of Pakistan’s nuclear safety by the Obama Administration is seen as a positive development in Islamabad. However, the US government has recently mounted pressure on Pakistan to reduce the size of its nuclear arsenals. Pakistan has made it clear that it would not accept any unilateral curb on its nuclear programme. Security managers in Islamabad have repeatedly raised concerns over the conventional imbalance in the South Asian region.
On March 2, a joint statement was issued following the ‘US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue’, in which both the US and Pakistan emphasised the need for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue.
Both sides also called on “all parties” in the region to act with “maximum restraint” for reducing tensions. · In a related development on March 10, Pakistan’s Foreign Office welcomed the inclusion of Kashmir issue in the Pak-US Strategic Dialogue statement as a major success. Earlier on February 29, Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Advisor, Sartaj Aziz held talks with US Secretary of State, John Kerry in Washington. Following the talks, the joint statement highlighted US recognition of Kashmir as a dispute that needs to be resolved peacefully. On regional cooperation, the US remained appreciative of Pakistan’s efforts and its role in the Afghan peace talks. On countering terrorism, both countries emphasised the need for effective action against all extremist groups, adding that no country’s territory should be used to destabilise other countries. The US and Pakistan also agreed to work closely on countering the emerging terrorist threat posed by the militant Islamic State group in the region. During the talks, the US also remained appreciative of Pakistan’s action against Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and its commitment to bring the culprits to justice. Meanwhile, Pakistan expressed strong resolve to take strong action against UN-designated terrorist individuals, including Al Qaeda, the Haqqani network, and Lashkar-e-Taiba. Islamabad’s efforts to counter terrorism have helped increase US confidence in Pakistan. Experts argue that the US-Pakistan partnership will remain of critical importance due to Pakistan’s cooperation with international efforts to stabilise Afghanistan and its efforts to bring the Taliban back on the negotiating table. However, differences on the nuclear issue remained during the US-Pak strategic talks even as the US called on Pakistan to reduce it nuclear arsenal. Islamabad maintained its principle position on the matter that it would not conform to any unilateral curb on its arsenal.
On March 8, Indian Foreign Secretary, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, held talks with US National Security Adviser, Susan Rice.
During the meeting, both sides agreed to ‘deepen’ 29 their close collaboration in the fight against Lashkare-Taiba (LeT) and JaisheMohammad (JeM). Rice and Jaishankar also affirmed their commitment to deepening bilateral cooperation on climate change, trade and defence. New Delhi has held LeT and JeM responsible for carrying out terror attacks in India. The US also underscored the need to expand cooperation with India for combating terrorist groups operating in Kashmir. Earlier, during the Pak-US strategic dialogue, Washington had stressed for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue and called on all regional stakeholders to act with ‘maximum restraint’. The Kashmir dispute remains the core issue between India and Pakistan. Pakistan maintains that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is the major source of instability in South Asia. Moreover, human rights groups argue that while the US has pledged to strengthen cooperation with India on fighting terror groups inside IOK, it has ignored concerns of human right abuses in IOK.
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On February 26, the US State Department spokesperson, Helaena White, defended the decision to sell F-16 aircraft to Pakistan and endorsed Islamabad’s position that the planes were to be used in counter-terrorism operations.
In a related development on February 26, Pakistan’s Embassy in Washington appreciated the Obama Administration’s determination to go ahead with the proposed sale. 31 · On February 25, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, while defending the Obama Administration’s decision to sell eight F-16 aircraft to Pakistan, said the ongoing military operation in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) forced the Haqqani network to relocate. Helaena White reiterated the US position that the proposed sale of eight F-16s to Pakistan will assist Pakistan’s counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations. Furthermore, calling Pakistan an important US partner in the region, Helaena White said the on-going military operation in the FATA is in the national interests of Pakistan, the US and NATO. The deal has been facing strong opposition in the US Congress where some US lawmakers have moved resolutions seeking to block the deal. Moreover, India has also opposed the deal saying the F-16 jets will not bring any assistance in counterterrorism operations and would likely end up being used against India. Meanwhile, the US government has downplayed Indian concerns saying the purpose of the sale was to enhance Pakistan’s precision strike capability. Moreover, defence analysts say the US decision to sell fighter jets to Pakistan is seen as a positive step in US-Pak relations.
On February 18, Pentagon Press Secretary, Peter Cook, rejected India’s concern that a proposed sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan could adversely affect the security balance in South Asia.
Peter Cook stressed that the F-16s will enhance Pakistan’s ability to conduct counter terrorism operations. Meanwhile, Pakistan has also expressed ‘disappointment’ over Indian government criticism on the deal, which is increasingly strengthening its own defence cooperation with the US. Pakistan has used F-16 jets to hit hundreds of target during an on-going military operation Zarb-e-Azb. Moreover, military experts are of the opinion that while Pakistan already operates a 33 number of F-16 variants, the addition of more jets is unlikely to have any impact on the regional stability.
On February 12, the Obama Administration notified the US Congress that it planned to sell eight Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, along with training, radar and other equipment, in a deal worth $699 million.
In a related development on February 13, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) summoned US envoy, Richard Verma in New Delhi, over the Obama Administration’s decision to sell eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman, Vikas Swarup, said that such arms transfers would not help Pakistan to combat terrorism. Meanwhile, the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees foreign arms sales, said that the transfer of F-16 aircraft would enhance Pakistan’s ability to conduct counter terrorism operations. Moreover, US State Department, spokesman, Mark Toner said that no country in the region had been more affected by terrorism than Pakistan – and calling it an important US partner in the region. Some observers say US government does not want to upset Islamabad at this juncture because of Pakistan’s decision to target a wide network of terrorist groups along with the Haqqani network and owing to its efforts to get the Afghan peace process back on track.
On February 10, the Obama Administration proposed $859.8 million in aid for Pakistan in its budget proposals for fiscal year 2016-17.
The Administration has stressed that the financial assistance would support US actions in the region and also help defeat terrorism. However, the assistance proposed for the year 2016 has seen a 10% cut from previous years. The Congress has been mounting pressure on Pakistan to target the Haqqani network and has linked the aid with Pakistan’s action against this network. According to observers the ongoing military operation by Pakistan’s Army in FATA has reinedin cross-border terrorists, including militants linked to the Haqqani network and helped in bringing some respite in the region. Islamabad’s assurance that it does not discriminate between different terrorist groups has also helped reduce tensions between the two countries.
On February 8, US commander for Afghanistan, General John Campbell told the House Armed Services Committee that during 2015 Pakistan took some concrete steps in the war against terrorism but its actions also pushed a large number of extremists into Afghanistan.
He also warned that the situation in Afghanistan might deteriorate and emphasised the need for a continued US presence in the country. Pakistan remains concerned over militant hideaways in the Afghan territory bordering North Waziristan and wants stronger border management between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
On February 4, Pakistan’s Defence Ministry expressed concern over the delay in release of the $350 million tranche of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) by the US Congress.
The Congress requires certification by the US Defence Secretary that Pakistani counter-terrorism operations have been successful in disrupting Haqqani network sanctuaries on its soil. The Congress has repeatedly asked Pakistan to take tough action against the Haqqani network. Pakistan military officials insist that the ongoing military operation in Pakistan has targeted all the militant networks operating in the country including the Haqqani Network. They also argue that Pakistan has suffered major economic losses much higher than what the US economic and military assistance was offering.
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On January 29, US General, John William Nicholson, nominated to head US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, told the US Senate Armed Services Committee that it is important to ‘enlist’ Pakistan for defeating terrorists in Afghanistan.
General Nicholson also said that military operation in FATA by Pakistan’s military had reduced the militants’ ability to use Pakistani territory as a safe haven for terrorism. General Nicholson stated that Pakistan continued to publicly express a desire for reconciliation talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan but he also stressed the need for consistency in Pakistan’s strategy. For Pakistan, while operation Zarb-e-Azab has achieved considerable gains in eliminating terrorism from Pakistan concerns remain over continued instability in Afghanistan, which have a direct impact on Pakistan’s security.
On January 23, US President Barack Obama said that Pakistan’s decision to target all militant groups in the country was ‘the right policy’, adding that PM Sharif recognised insecurity as a threat to Pakistan’s stability and that of the entire region.
President Obama also reminded Pakistan that it ‘can and must’ take more effective action against terrorist groups operating from its soil by ‘de-legitimising, disrupting and dismantling’ their activities. Moreover, referring to India, President Obama asserted that the Indo-US relationship can be one of the defining partnerships of the century. However, with the expanding Indo-US strategic partnership, observers say the Obama Administration’s embrace of India could upset the balance of power in the South Asian region.
On January 21, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held a trilateral meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the 46th World Economic Forum.
US Vice President Joe Biden, during the meeting urged both countries to work together to eliminate militant sanctuaries within their borders. The Vice President reaffirmed US support for reconciliation and improved bilateral ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan and called them 35 important pillars of regional stability. However, experts are of the opinion that the series of attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India since the start of 2016, and the accusations by three countries blaming each other for the attacks, are posing a severe challenge to the peace efforts.
On January 15, adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, reacted strongly to a statement made by US President Barack Obama in which he said that Pakistan would continue to face instability and turmoil for decades to come.
US President Barack Obama also said that several countries including Afghanistan and Pakistan may become safe havens for terrorist networks. Sartaj Aziz said that Pakistan had taken ‘decisive actions against terrorism and militancy’. Recent reports also indicate that militancy has sharply declined in Pakistan especially after it launched a massive operation against terrorist groups.