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    US 'Needs Pakistan, Won't Fully Cut Off Assistance' – Security Analyst

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    Asked to comment on the US announcement suspending hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of security assistance to Pakistan, Afghan political and security expert Rahimullah Yusufzai said that the decision was not unexpected, and does not mean that the US will cut off aid completely.

    "This was expected, and Pakistan was preparing for that," the analyst told Radio Sputnik, referring to the State Department's announcement earlier this week that Washington would no longer transfer certain military equipment and security-related financial assistance to the Pakistani armed forces.

    According to the State Department, the US made the funding decision over concerns that Islamabad is providing a safe haven for the al-Qaeda and Taliban-allied Haqqani terrorist network, a former CIA-funded anti-Soviet guerrilla group which has engaged in plotting attacks on US troops in neighbouring Afghanistan in recent years.

    With that in mind, Yusufzai said that the aid cuts do not mean a complete US break with the South Asian country. "I don't think they will fully cut off the assistance, because they still want to work with Pakistan. They need Pakistan. Supply lines to Afghanistan pass through Pakistan. There are 20,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan. They need all kinds of supplies, and they use the Pakistani land route, and also the air route [to deliver them]."

    US Army soldiers provide security for members of their team near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border
    © Photo : US Army / Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann
    US Army soldiers provide security for members of their team near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border

    "So I expect there will be more talks. There may not be any breakthrough, but I think that the relationship will not be completely broken down," the observer noted.

    Last week, President Trump published several tweets criticizing US aid policy to Pakistan, vowing to break with the policy of the past two administrations of pumping tens of billions of dollars in aid into the country for little tangible return.

    Yusufzai argued that Trump's policy of making policy decisions via "very strong words" on Twitter was one of the causes of the current problems in relations between the two countries, and "one of the reasons why Pakistan is so angry and defiant."

    "Pakistan has taken a very hard line, like the US, and they're replying to every allegation" made by Trump, the observer noted. "This kind of running your foreign policy through the media cannot achieve much, and is going to alienate more and more allies," he suggested.

    At the same time, Yusufzai recalled that so far, Pakistani officials have dismissed the significance of the estimated $900 million in aid that's at stake. "If you listen to the Pakistani officials, they say that it won't mean much. The Pakistani minister of finance said that the American assistance is only one day's expenses for Pakistan. They are saying that they are not very dependent on the US."

    "That is the way it has been portrayed, but I think there will be some effect, [even if] not much. Because Pakistan is carrying out military operations in the tribal areas, along the border, and helping the US fight terrorism. That will slow down, and that will mean I think more problems for both countries – for Pakistan and also for the US in Afghanistan. So it's going to have some effect in the short term, and we don't know how long this will continue, so we have to really guess what is going to happen in the long term."

    In this July 24, 2016 file photo, a US military personal stands guard during a graduation ceremony for Afghan troops, in Lashkargah, capital of southern Helmand province, Afghanistan.
    © AP Photo / Abdul Khaliq
    In this July 24, 2016 file photo, a US military personal stands guard during a graduation ceremony for Afghan troops, in Lashkargah, capital of southern Helmand province, Afghanistan.

    Asked whether there was any truth in Washington's claims that Islamabad hasn't done enough to fight terror, Yusufzai said that the dispute is really about Pakistan's lack of urgency in fighting the militants, not their lack of assistance as such. The US, he noted, wants "action against the Haqqani network. Pakistan is saying that the Haqqani no longer exist in Pakistan."  Another issue revolves around whether a political solution to the conflict exists, with Islamabad preferring that option while the US is looking for a military solution.

    Furthermore, one of the explanations Islamabad has been able to fall back on is the 2.7 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan for nearly four decades now, and among whom terror groups such as al-Qaeda and Haqqani can easily hide and operate. The effort to repatriate these refugees has to be an international one, according to Yusufzai.

    Afghan border police stand guard near the Torkham crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan in Nangarhar province on May 12, 2016.
    © AFP 2019 / NOORULLAH SHIRZADA
    Afghan border police stand guard near the Torkham crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan in Nangarhar province on May 12, 2016.

    "Pakistan is under pressure, not only from the US but also from the Afghan government and India. So there are problems for Pakistan, and it has to put its own house in order. But I think to be frank, Pakistan cannot help the US to win the war in Afghanistan. That has to be done by the Afghan government, the Americans and the NATO forces," Yusufzai concluded.

    The views and opinions expressed by Rahimullah Yusufzai are those of the observer and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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