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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

US not ready to resume military aid to Pakistan, Mike Pompeo says

Washington recently said it was formally cancelling $300 million of security assistance

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he wants to "reset" strained relations with Pakistan. AP
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he wants to "reset" strained relations with Pakistan. AP

Pakistan has still not done enough against militant groups for Washington to restart military aid, the US secretary of state has said.

Mike Pompeo arrived in Islamabad for brief talks with Imran Khan with the turbulent relationship between the allies clouded by US allegations Islamabad is failing to crackdown on groups fighting in Afghanistan.

Mr Pompeo flew in saying he wanted to reset a relationship which has long been marred by distrust and recrimination.

But he said he would use his five-hour layover enroute to Delhi to explain US expectations of what Pakistan must do to help bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

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Pakistani officials said they held little hope his brief pit stop would herald an immediate warming in relations.

Washington at the weekend disclosed it was formally cancelling $300 million (Dh1.1 billion) of security assistance it had suspended earlier in the year.

"We certainly haven't seen the progress that we would have hoped to have seen," Mr Pompeo told reporters on his plane during the flight to Islamabad.

"Certainly not progress that would be sufficient for us to have advocated for turning back on that financial support."

He said the decision to cancel the aid payment, which was to reimburse Pakistan's military for its security operations along the border with Afghanistan, “wasn't news to the Pakistanis".

He said: “The rationale for them not getting the money is very clear, it's that we haven't seen the progress that we need to see from them and the very reason for this trip is to try to articulate what it is our expectation is.

“We need Pakistan to seriously engage to help us get to the reconciliation we need in Afghanistan."

A convoy with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for talks in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018. Pompeo arrived in Pakistan on Wednesday at a time when relations between the two countries have sunk to a new low. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)
A convoy with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for talks in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018. Pompeo arrived in Pakistan on Wednesday at a time when relations between the two countries have sunk to a new low. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

The US has long accused Pakistan of providing support and safe haven to Taliban militants fighting the Western-backed government of Ashraf Ghani in Kabul. They have called on Pakistan to use its influence over the militants to bring them to the negotiating table.

Pakistan denies supporting the militants, and says the US fails to recognise its sacrifices in fighting militancy on its own soil. Tens of thousands have died in extremist attacks since 2001 and the military has suffered 6,500 casualties in operations to drive militants from the border regions.

The confrontation over funding threatened to overshadow Mr Pompeo's attempts to revitalise ties that had apparently almost collapsed under Mr Khan's predecessor.

Mr Pompeo, who was accompanied by Gen Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: “New leader there, wanted to get out there at the beginning of his time in an effort to reset the relationship between the two countries.

“There are lot of challenges between our two nations for sure but we're hopeful that with the new leadership that we can find common ground and we can begin to work on some of our shared problems together."

Mr Khan's political rise was often accompanied by anti-American rhetoric. He has been a strong critic of US policy in Afghanistan and once claimed the Taliban were justified in fighting a US occupation.

But he has been more measured since taking office and said only that he wants a more equal partnership with Washington.

Mr Pompeo suggested the election of the former cricketer could provide fresh impetus for better ties.

“I think there is a new government this time, most of this took place long before prime minister was in power and I hope we can turn the page and begin to make progress. But there are real expectations," he said. "I'm hopeful we can convince them to provide that assistance."

After the talks, Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mehmood Quereshi said his meeting with Mr Pompeo had been "excellent" but offered no immediate details.