WASHINGTON — The U.S. could lift its freeze on the $900 million in security assistance it gives to Pakistan, if Pakistan targets terror groups using its territory as a sanctuary for attacks in Afghanistan, according to a senior State Department official.
“We have shared with Pakistan our South Asia strategy in detail and have made our expectations clear, emphasized that they must take decisive action against all militant and terrorist groups based there,” Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday.
The U.S. is specifically seeking progress in Pakistan’s targeting of outwardly focused terror organizations.
“We may consider lifting the suspension when we see decisive and sustained action to address our concerns, including targeting all terrorist groups operating within its territory,” Sullivan said.
In January, President Donald Trump suspended an estimated $900 million in security aid to Pakistan, with some limited case-by-case exceptions, reflecting frustration that Islamabad has not done more to curb groups that use Pakistan as a base for external attacks.
Pakistani officials have defended itself against the accusations and argued the country has done much on multiple fronts to aid the U.S.-led fight in Afghanistan.
Last month, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff expressed hope that military relationships can bridge any political divide between Washington and Islamabad.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said the administration had “rightly” taken a more pointed approach by suspending the aid as long as Islamabad continues to shelter terror groups. He has previously called the Pakistani government “duplicitous” over the issue.
The panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Ben Cardin, questioned whether the administration truly believed the suspension would work this time, when punitive measures have failed in the past.
“Are we prepared to do more to elicit the behavior we want, or is this more about the same?” said Cardin, of Maryland.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., a member of the panel who also serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, pointed to alleged ties between the Haqqani network and Pakistani intelligence — and questioned whether the government could withstand a crackdown.
“I understand it’s a delicate balance for Pakistan,” Sullivan replied. “We want to do all we can to support them in that effort, and we have provided an enormous amount of assistance — monetary and otherwise — to the Pakistani government.”
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.