The United States Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2019, passed by the Congress earlier this week, states that future security-related aid provided to Pakistan will not be linked to the country’s counter-terrorism efforts.
The amendment to the John S. McCain National Defense Authorisation Act for Fiscal Year 2019 is under further deliberation and differences are being resolved according to US Congress’ website. The amendment proposes a massive cut to security-related aid to Pakistan “by striking $900,000,000 and inserting $350,000,000”. The US president’s signature will be required to approve the final amendment to the security act.
“Pakistan for certain activities meant to enhance the security situation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region pursuant to section 1226 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, as amended by the John S. McCain National Defense Authorisation Act for Fiscal Year 2019,” stated the amended act for fiscal year 2019.
The amended legislation would come into effect from October 1, 2018, to December 31, 2019, if approved by President Trump.
The bill makes a single reference to the US-designated terrorist group; the Haqqani network. It mentioned the militant group while mentioning the ability of Afghan security forces to defend their territory against militants. There seem to be around 19 mentions of Pakistan in the entire bill, known formally as the conference report.
The bill also mentions the condition for reimbursing certain friendly countries for their border security operations. It notes that the US could also provide security assistance to Pakistan for supporting and enhancing efforts of its armed forces to increase security and sustain said security along its border with Afghanistan.
Media reports suggested that the amount was reduced to $150 million from the $350 million provided last year. In November 2017, half of the $700 million in military and economic aid for Pakistan for 2018 was also tied to conditions related to counter-terrorism measures against the Haqqani Network. Although the bill did not include Lashkar-e-Taiba as a targeted group then, the conference report had mentioned it, and the US Congress remains concerned about its freedom of navigation inside Pakistan.
However, other reports suggest that Trump administration decided on retaining the halved amount from 2017 for 2019 as well. The conference report, however, makes it clear that the goals and desired outcomes of each such operation or activity have to be “established and agreed upon in advance by the United States and Pakistan”.
Anish Goel, a former staffer of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Hindustan Times that NDAA 2019 “gets rid of the certification requirements for Pakistani action against the Haqqani network, and also gets rid of the authority to reimburse Pakistan for counter-terrorism”.
“Pentagon no longer has any tools to apply pressure to the Pakistanis to undertake counterterrorism activities or action against the Haqqani network,” he explained.