US is reportedly providing Pakistan with $255 million in military aid. However, these funds are conditional and come with strings attached.
US has strived to be on friendly terms with both India and Pakistan, Washington has long considered Islamabad to be a more valuable ally. During the Cold War, Pakistan became a key friend to the US in South Asia. Pakistan's then Prime Minister, Huseyn Suhravardie in 1956 gave the United States the permission to lease the Peshawar Air Station (PAS) to be used for intelligence gathering of Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles.
However, the relationship between Pakistan and the United States has been tested through the decades. One of the reasons for the relationship to have soured at times is in part due to Pakistan’s growing friendship with Russia and China. In 2013, Pakistan and China announced a series of projects to improve the infrastructure of Pakistan called the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is valued at $62 billion. Another vital reason the relationship has dipped is due to the fact US has repeatedly called out Pakistan’s alleged involvement with various terrorist activities.
The burgeoning friendship between the United States and India has also soured the comfortable equation between US and Islamabad.
One of the lowest periods in the Pakistan-US relationship was in 2011. In May of that year, US forces conducted a raid in Pakistan to kill the architect of 9/11, Osama Bin Laden who had been hiding in that country. The Pakistani government was only notified of the raid after it had been conducted.
During a recent address, US President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of harboring terrorists in the region. He said, “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond. Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson too has spoken about the “erosion of trust” between the US and Pakistan. He said, “Pakistan must adopt a different approach, and we are ready to work with them to help them protect themselves against these terrorist organisations. We are going to be conditioning our support for Pakistan and our relationship with them on them delivering results in this area.”
According to a report from New York Times, the US has made the allowance to give Pakistan $255 million in military assistance. However, this would be similar to an escrow account. Pakistan can only access the funds if it can effectively crack down on terror networks in Afghanistan.
The report quoted an official as stating, “Once Pakistan more aggressively pursues the Taliban and Haqqani network, the aid will be released — a determination to be made by Secretary of State Tillerson.”
Tensions between Pakistan and the US are particularly high currently. In the recent times, Pakistan has cancelled at least three high profile meetings with American authorities. This includes a proposed meeting between Tillerson and Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif.
Our assessment is that US is cognizant of the consequences of a ruptured relationship with Islamabad. The statements by Tillerson alludes to this. Pakistan will remain the center of the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. To their credit, they are able to lend boots and this makes them vital in any security metrics that is being drawn in the region.