National and International Issues

The Changing U.S. - Pakistan Security Cooperation Scenario

The constant accusation levied against Pakistan for harboring terrorists by U.S. has not discouraged Pakistan in fighting the war against terrorism. The restoration of peace in Afghanistan is currently the biggest of Pakistan’s strategic objectives.

The National Action Plan, introduced in 2015, comprises a 20-point multi-disciplinary effort to rid the country of terrorists. Simultaneously, Pakistan’s permanent membership to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has increased prospects of combatting terrorism as per regional consensus. The Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), since its first meeting in January 2016, has been continuously working to create direct dialogue with the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government. The clear and realistic assessment of the opportunities for peace and reconciliation are a priority for the QCG negotiations. 

In the recent years the Pakistan Army has launched two major anti-terrorism operations, namely Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad. In these operations the Pakistan Armed Forces destroyed 992 hideouts of terrorists and removed 7,599 explosive mines in Khyber Agency alone. The forces also seized 35,310 rockets and 253 tons of explosive material, which was sufficient to carry bomb blasts for 21 years with the capacity to target about 134,000 persons.1  To contain the influence and spread of terrorism within Pakistan, the government has taken various initiatives to start the rehabilitation of temporary displaced persons (TDPs) along with the return of Afghan refugees to Afghanistan. The refugee displacement and relocation is an extensive process, but is nonetheless possible by working around flexible deadlines. The project for nationwide census of the citizens of Pakistan has helped in acquiring the statistics for residents and refugees. 

The so-called ‘billions and billions of dollars’ (often boasted by Trump) the United States has given to Pakistan were put on halt on January 4, 2018 for the fiscal year 2017.2 The withheld reimbursement amounts to approximately USD 900 million from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) and another USD 255 million dollars of Foreign Military Financing (FMF).3   The suspension has been backed by the United States stating that Pakistan has been put on ‘notice’ given its insufficient efforts to fight terrorism in the region. The U.S. claims that Pakistan is providing safe havens to several terrorist networks such as the Haqqani network, and is also funding ‘state sponsored terrorism’. 

Regardless of Pakistan’s unending efforts to fight regional terror, U.S. has demanded un-defined ‘decisive movements against terrorism’ to be exhibited by Pakistan for the restoration of funds. The question however is, ‘What U.S. really wants from its ‘Do More’ motto for Pakistan, and how far the suspension of funds can really go?’ 

The U.S. government seems to be seriously confused about what their actual approach is towards Pakistan. On one hand, U.S. has suspended the reimbursements to Pakistan and is discussing the saved finances for domestic infrastructural development in the United States while on the other hand Pakistan is seen by the United States as the only feasible option for its military supplies to the U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The restoration of suspended funds to Pakistan is not an option up for debate for the U.S. rather a necessity for its stay in Afghanistan. Similar suspensions had come Pakistan’s way during the presidency of Barack Obama which were finally restored. The alternate to Pakistan’s assistance to the U.S. is much more expensive with increased involvement from India. U.S.’ increasing pressure is a result of a few factors which involves the defamation of Pakistan as a terrorist financier country with the objective of making Pakistan look like a less attractive option for international investment, and, harming the development of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). There is also U.S.’ desire for India to compete against the regional hegemonic stature of China to contain China’s influence both regionally and internationally. 

Regardless of what policy shifts and statements the United States may give out for Pakistan, the on-ground reality is that the United States needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs the United States. The suspended CSF and FMF may be an ultimatum for further suspension of Pakistan’s status as a non-NATO ally by the U.S. Nonetheless, Pakistan is adamant to fight the menace of terrorism, with or without America’s assistance.

Although the suspension of reimbursements did remotely come as a surprise to Pakistan, the course of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism operations has not changed. Pakistan’s federal government and the military repeatedly denied all claims of providing sanctuaries to terrorists and provided supportive evidence. Along with this, Pakistan voiced its concerns about the terrorists in Afghanistan to the insufficient efforts of U.S. in the war on terror in retaliation to which cross-border terrorism was financed and carried out against Pakistan. 

Washington and Islamabad have not suspended any negotiations and the terms of the counter-terrorism strategy are still being discussed. As always, the U.S. is fighting along and against Pakistan at the same time, adding ambiguity to a formalized strategy. 

The coming few months will be crucial for U.S.-Pak relations. Islamabad needs to make Washington realize the importance of Pakistan’s alliance with regards to assistance provided to the on-going U.S.  presence in Afghanistan. The regional players support a regional solution for Afghanistan to restore stability to the entire region. Currently, the priority of U.S. must be to maintain alliance with Pakistan instead of India. The haphazard decision making of the United States needs to be met with apt diplomacy. Pakistan needs to make an extensive effort to convince not just the U.S. but the entire international community that Pakistan has uprooted and eradicated terrorism from its soil. Collective efforts will revitalize Pakistan’s image for the world, as a developing nation that is safe and open to investment opportunities.

The writer is a Research Associate at Center for Global & Strategic Studies, Islamabad.
E-mail: [email protected]

1 Lt. General Asim Saleem Bajwa, “Zarb-e-Azb : ISPR brief on achievements of operation”, Times of Islamabad, Septermber 1, 2016,
2 Mohammed & Landay, “U.S. suspends at least $900 million in security aid to Pakistan”, Reuters, January 5, 2018.
3 Ibid.


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