Nauert added, however: “There may be some exceptions that are made on a case-by-case basis if determined to be critical to national security interests.”
“It’s very profound,” C. Christine Fair, an associate professor at Georgetown University who is a critic of Pakistan’s support of militant groups, said of the Trump administration’s decision. “It’s huge.”
She pointed out that the Coalition Support Funds (CSF) were more than what the U.S. pays Pakistan as security aid in the form of foreign military financing (FMF). CSF is what the U.S. pays Pakistan to fight terrorist groups. FMF is a mechanism through which Pakistan buys American military equipment.
Signs of deteriorating relations between the two countries came last August when Trump unveiled his strategy for Afghanistan: He increased the U.S. military presence in the country; accused Pakistan of sheltering “the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people”; and called on India “to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.” Last month, while announcing his national-security strategy, Trump said Pakistan must take “decisive action against terrorist groups operating on their territory.”
Pakistan’s support for groups like the Taliban has long been an irritant to its relations with the United States and Afghanistan. The Taliban is key to Pakistan’s strategic interests because it is not interested in being buffeted by two unfriendly nations on its borders—Afghanistan and India. But that support could cost it an alliance with the United States, its most important partner since 1947, when the country was created.
Cutting off military aid to Pakistan will impose costs on the U.S. too, however. Pakistan controls many of the supply lines for material into Afghanistan. When Pakistan shut these lines off for about eight months between November 2011 and July 2012, the cost of supplying the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan through an alternate route increased from $17 million a month to $104 million a month. But Fair pointed out the additional cost incurred by the U.S. was still less than what the U.S. paid Pakistan as part of the Coalition Support Funds.
“I hope [the Trump administration has] considered what the countermeasures are if [the Pakistanis] shut the” supply lines, she said, adding ultimately she didn’t believe Thursday’s action “is going to make Pakistan change its behavior.” She said sanctions that specifically target the country’s military or pressure on the International Monetary Fund, which lends the country money, are the only kinds of actions that could prompt a change. She acknowledged, however, this would be a “nuclear option.”
Security aid to Pakistan has been falling for some time. It was about 1.6 billion in fiscal 2003, but dropped sharply to $319.7 million by fiscal 2017, according to data maintained by the Security Independence Monitor, which tracks such figures. (Pakistan received $422.5 million in economic and development aid in fiscal 2017. That aid is unaffected by Thursday’s announcement.)