Denial of USD 350m aid to Pakistan reality, not policy: Mattis

Washington: US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has said that his refusal to give certification to Congress that Pakistan was taking action against the Haqqani network is not a reflection of a new tougher policy against Islamabad, but simply an assessment of the current state of play.

Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said yesterday that the Trump administration will not provide USD 350 million in coalition support funds to Pakistan after the US Defence Secretary said he cannot certify that Islamabad has taken “sufficient actions” against the dreaded Haqqani network.

“This is simply an assessment of the current state of play. It is not a policy. It is a reality. You know, we are just defining the realities,” Mattis told reporters yesterday.

When asked if the withholding of USD 350 million coalition support funds was part of the Trump administration’s new policy towards Pakistan, he said “No”.

Responding to questions, Mattis dispelled rumours that the National Security Advisor Lieutenant General H R McMaster would be leaving soon for an Afghan-related assignment.

Pakistan-based Haqqani network is blamed for a number of high-profile attacks on US and Western interests in war-torn Afghanistan.

The terror group is also blamed for several deadly attacks against Indian interests in Afghanistan, including the 2008 bombing of the Indian mission in Kabul that killed 58 people.

This is for the second consecutive year that the US Defence Secretary has refused to certify to Congress, as mandated under National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA), that Pakistan has taken satisfactory action against the Haqqani network.

Mattis’ predecessor Ashton Carter was the first US Defence Secretary to refuse that certification.

As a result of the notification by Defence Secretary Mattis to Congress, the Department of Defence has reprogrammed remaining Coalition Support Funds, which is USD 350 million, to other accounts, Stump said.