A significant shift in foreign policy

For the release of the new assistance of $532 million, the US will use a national interest waiver

M Ziauddin January 13, 2015
The writer served as Executive Editor of The Express Tribune from 2009 to 2014

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan seem to be on the mend since Ashraf Ghani was elected Afghanistan’s president. The very next day following his victory in the run-off polls on June 14, 2014, as if on some kind of a scripted cue, Pakistan launched the much demanded, the much desired and much awaited military operation against all kinds of terrorists — both good and bad — and their infrastructure in the North Waziristan Agency (NWA). And this seems to have caused, in turn, a visible thaw in Islamabad’s relations with Washington, which had remained virtually frozen since 2011. And true enough, within days of Operation Zarb-e-Azb’s launch Pakistan’s defence secretary and the prime minister’s special assistant on foreign affairs were in Washington, one after the other, ostensibly to explain to US officials and that country’s opinion-makers the ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘what’ of Islamabad’s new policy vis-a-vis the war on terror and also seek understanding, as well as material and moral support for the policy.

Meanwhile, Daniel Feldman, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, was seen frequently interacting with the leadership of the two countries both in Washington and in the respective capitals. And General Raheel Sharif, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, paid a two-week long extended visit to the US last year in November where he met his counterpart, the Centcom chief, as well as top officials of the state and defence departments, including Secretary of State John Kerry. The following month, Washington hosted the 23rd US-Pakistan Defence Consultative Group meeting. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had met Kerry twice, once in New York in September and next in London early December 2014. He met him for a third time in Islamabad on January 12. President Barack Obama had a telephonic conference with Nawaz Sharif on November 22, 2014. And between September and December 2014, a number of visits were undertaken by the top civil and military leadership of Pakistan and Afghanistan to each other’s capitals that seem to have served to enhance and deepen mutual understanding of one another’s problems and the measure of mutual cooperation needed in the areas of politics, military and intelligence, to overcome them.

As a result of all these efforts on the part of Pakistan, the Coalition Support Fund facility, which had expired at the end of last year, was restored by the US Congress with the condition that Pakistan cannot receive more than a billion dollars in a year. The facility expires at the end of fiscal year 2015. Of the total amount of reimbursements and support authorised for Pakistan during the year, $300 million “shall not be eligible for the waiver unless the US secretary of defence certifies to the congressional defence committee that Pakistan has undertaken military operations in North Waziristan that have contributed to significantly disrupting the safe haven and freedom of movement of the Haqqani network”. The secretary will also be required to certify that Pakistan has taken steps that have demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that the NWA does not return to being a safe haven for the Haqqani network.

The US has also promised to release $532 million of assistance some time later this year, but not from the assistance earmarked under the expired Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act, passed in 2009. This Act had required the US administration to certify that Pakistan was “cooperating with the United States in counter-terrorism efforts against the Haqqani network, the Quetta Shura Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, al Qaeda, and other domestic and foreign terrorist organisations”. No funds were released from this facility since 2013.

When unable to issue a certification, the administration uses a national interest waiver to provide assistance. So for the release of the new assistance of $532 million, the US will use a national interest waiver. Such a waiver implies that it is in the US national interest to provide financial assistance to a country, which may not meet all the requirements for receiving US assistance. And in September last, the US also agreed to sell 160 mine resistance ambush protected vehicles, essential for the NWA military campaign, to Pakistan at a total cost of $198 million. Implementation of the proposed sale will require approximately two US government and 24 contractors’ representatives in Pakistan for 18 months to perform inspection and de-processing of vehicles upon delivery.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th,  2015.

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observer | 9 years ago | Reply

@Sexton Blake:

"@observer: Dear observer, Good comment. Obviously at 80 years of age I still have something to learn."

We have seen this movie of turning a new leaf before. Didn't Musharraf tell the world after 9/11 that Pakistan had changed its Afghan policy and was in full cooperation with the war on terror? We all know the double-games he played keeping the "good" Taliban healthy and alive and even hiding top terrorists such as Osama bin Laden right next to his army compound in Pakistan.

The moral is: a leopard will never change its spots.

Zalmai | 9 years ago | Reply

@ Observer

Afghans know Pakistan will be up to its old tricks sooner or later, they are not fooled by this so called paradigm shift. Ashraf Ghani and some Afghans are giving Pakistan the benefit of the doubt, albeit very cautiously.

Afghanistan is not the country it was in the 80s, 90s and noughties where a jihadi mindset was manufactured, which was exploited and manipulated by Pakistan at the expense of Afghans and Afghanistan.

The new generation of Afghan leaders are educated worldly technocrats that know how to negotiate and maneuver their way regionally and globally. Ashraf Ghani is probably the most educated head of state in South and Central Asia and he leads from the front. Let's hope that Pakistan and Afghanistan sincerely cooperate in ridding themselves of the menace of terrorism and bury the hatchet for the benefit of their people and the wider region.

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