US lawmakers demand cancellation of aid to Pakistan until significant steps are taken to combat Taliban in region

Washington: The US has not seen Pakistan taking sustained and decisive actions required to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table, a top Trump administration official told lawmakers who demanded suspension of all American aid to Pakistan.

Principal deputy assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells during a Congressional hearing on Afghanistan told the lawmakers that Pakistan has a particularly crucial role to play in the war-torn country as without its support it will be challenging to achieve the US' objectives under the South Asia strategy.

 US lawmakers demand cancellation of aid to Pakistan until significant steps are taken to combat Taliban in region

File image of US president Donald Trump. AP

“While we've seen some positive steps, our assessment has been that we have not seen the sustained and decisive actions that are really required to ensure that the Taliban take this peace process seriously,” she said.

"We would like to see Pakistan arrest, expel, or bring Taliban leadership to the negotiating table,” Wells said in response to a question from Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Ros-Lehtinen, the Congresswoman from Florida, asked Wells if she has seen any evidence that Pakistan has taken any steps to cut off the flow of arms, of fighters, or support for the Taliban.

“Have we, in the US, allowed for any waivers or made any exceptions to military assistance to Pakistan since the suspension of the aid was announced?” the lawmaker asked.

Responding to another question from Congressman Ted Poe, Wells said she agrees with the assessment that the biggest problem in Afghanistan is the sanctuaries that shelter terrorists in Pakistan.

“The Pakistan government has hidden terrorist leaders in the past, they're a sanctuary for terrorist leaders, and somehow we still give Pakistan money with the promise that they will do better. We do that every year, we continue to do it and yet nothing changes,” Poe said.

“They harbour terrorists. They fight terrorists in their country, but they pay for terrorists to go across the border into Afghanistan. The militants end up killing Americans, our allies, and Afghans," he added.

Congresswoman Ann Wagner said that Pakistan has a clear interest in preventing the cessation of hostilities in Afghanistan, but has made itself central to American operations.

In the past, Pakistan has wagered, correctly, that the US would rather accept Pakistan incomplete support than lose it entirely.

“I believe the President was correct to demand full cooperation from Pakistan last August," she said.

Under the Trump administration, Wells said the US not only had direct talks with the senior leadership of Pakistan, but also has taken the unprecedented step of suspending military assistance and coalition support funds, as a result of US assessment that Pakistan had not been undertaking the decisive and sustained steps that are necessary.

“We agree that Pakistan has a lot to gain by peace in Afghanistan. And so, the challenge is, how do you secure Pakistan's support for a negotiated political process, rather than its tolerance of proxies?” she said.

She said Pakistan can't be a normal state as long as there are extremist groups on its soil.

"We do not deny that Pakistan has fought its own heroic battles against terrorism. It defeated, in large part, the Pakistani Taliban. It's just now reintegrated the federally administered tribal areas into the governing system of Pakistan. But, you know, we treat all terrorist enemies of Pakistan as our terrorist enemies and we expect that Pakistan should do the same," Wells said.

Unveiling his new South Asia strategy in August 2017, Trump had accused Pakistan of giving "safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror," and said the time had come "for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilisation, order, and to peace".

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Updated Date: Jun 21, 2018 11:46:36 IST