The United States Congress on Thursday approved a $716.3-billion defense authorization bill, wherein it made a significant cut to the security-oriented financial aid to Pakistan.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2019 ramped up the military spending and avoided policy changes that would have antagonized US President Donald Trump.
In the latest NDAA, the security aid to Islamabad — that had once started from almost $750 million per year to $1 billion — was marked down to a mere $150 million. However, it also relaxed certain conditions that were attached with the financial assistance, including action against the Haqqani Network and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
This crucial reduction translates into the fact that the Pentagon might not have any tools to pressurize Pakistan into taking action against the banned militant outfits. The US had earlier used these funds to ask Islamabad to do more with regard to the counter-terrorism operations, especially against the Haqqani Network.
Lately, the Trump administration, which has become quite active in trying to make the Afghan peace talks work, has been pushing Pakistan to help bring the Taliban to the negotiating table in order to reach a deal with Kabul's government.
The NDAA 2019, which was earlier given the green signal by the US House of Representatives, was passed 87 to 10 in the Senate. The Bill has now been sent to the White House for Trump to sign.
The bill provides $69 billion in war funding known as overseas contingency operations, authorizes a 2.6-percent pay raise for members of the armed forces, and invests tens of billions in modernizing the Pentagon's air and sea fleets and missile defenses.