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Trump’s first budget proposes huge cut in foreign aid, may affect Pakistan

WASHINGTON: US Pre­sident Don­ald Trump on Thursday proposed a $1.1tr budget, which includes a substantial cut in foreign aid, possibly affe­cting Pakistan and other recipients.

However, the US military aid to Pakistan also comes from the defence budget where Trump proposed a massive $54bn increase.

Director of the Office of Manag­ement of Budget Mick Mulvaney told reporters ahead of the budget proposals the administration plans to cut the State Department’s foreign aid programme by an unprecedented 28 per cent. “Foreign aid gets reduced,” said the US official while explaining budget cut was not a judgement on the State Department’s performance but because foreign aid happens to fall within the department’s functions.

The proposed cuts will directly affect major US aid recipients, which include Pakistan. The top recipients in the 2016-17 budget were Afghanistan $4.7bn; Israel $3.1bn; Egypt $1.4 bn; Iraq $1.1 bn; Jordan $1bn and Pakistan $742m. Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Ethiopia each received more than $500m.

Last week, the Trump administration made its first reimbursement of $550m to Pakistan, setting aside rumours that Washington’s new rulers may sever their ties with Islamabad. The money came from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), which is used for reimbursing Pakistan for fighting militants on its western border with Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, the Congress adopted the defence appropriation bill for 2017, which also sets aside $900m for providing economic and military assistance to Pakistan. The US Congress had authorised these reimbursements in 2016 but recent reports in the US and Indian media suggested the Trump administration may delay or even stop the payment as it was unhappy with Pakistan’s performance in the war against terror.

A recent study, authored jointly by former envoy Hussain Haqqani and Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation, also suggested stopping US assistance to Pakistan, particularly to its defence establishment, to force Islamabad to follow US policy guidelines. Earlier this week, Congressman Ted Poe, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terro­rism, introduced a bill in the House of Represen­tatives, seeking to get Pakistan declared a state sponsor of terrorism.

Such proposals were, however, strongly disputed by the US defence establishment.In January, Lt Gen John Nicholson, who commands US and Nato forces in Afghanistan,

told a congressional panel that Wash­ingtion should try to ‘enlist’ Pakistan for defeating terrorists in Afghanistan. He also told the US Senate Armed Services Committee Pakistan’s military operations in Fata were “critical to defeating insurgency”.

Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2017

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