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Islamabad Seeks Return of Chopper Crash Hostages from Afghan Taliban | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A Pakistan Army helicopter flies past a mosque during an operation. Reuters

Washington, Islamabad-The Pentagon will not pay Pakistan $300 million in military reimbursements after U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter decided not to tell Congress that Pakistan was taking adequate action against the Haqqani network, a U.S. official said.

Relations between the two countries have been frayed over the past decade, with U.S. officials frustrated by what they term Islamabad’s unwillingness to act against Islamist groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network.

“The funds could not be released to the Government of Pakistan at this time because the Secretary has not yet certified that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network,” Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said on Wednesday.

The $300 million comes under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), a U.S. Defense Department program to reimburse allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations. Pakistan is the largest recipient.

“This decision does not reduce the significance of the sacrifices that the Pakistani military has undertaken over the last two years,” Stump said.

According to Pentagon data, about $14 billion has already been paid to Pakistan under the CSF since 2002.

The decision by the Pentagon is a sign that while it sees some progress by Pakistan in its military operations in North Waziristan, much work remains.

Pakistan rejects harboring militants but says there are limits to how much it can do as it is already fighting multiple Islamist groups and is wary of a “blowback” in the form of more militant attacks on its soil.

Pakistan’s prime minister said on Friday his government is using “formal and informal channels” to seek the return of seven passengers of a crashed Pakistani helicopter who were captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

A Taliban commander claimed the seven were “in safe hands” with the insurgents.

The Pakistani government helicopter, en route to Russia for a routine overhaul, crash-landed in the Taliban-held Logar province in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday.

“Formal and informal channels are being used to ensure safe recovery of the entire crew,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in a statement from his office.

Pakistan’s army chief, General Raheel Sharif, called Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday to request his country’s help.

“Afghan President Ashraf Ghani assured all possible assistance in this regard,” tweeted General Asim Bajwa, the Pakistani military’s spokesman on Friday.

On Friday, a senior Afghan Taliban commander, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the passengers – six Pakistanis and a Russian technician – were in their custody and that negotiations for their release were ongoing.

“They are being looked after, being provided tea, food, everything,” he said. “We are in touch with the Pakistani officials. We conveyed to them that they are in safe hands.”

He added that it was no use seeking help from the Afghan government or U.S. military, because the Taliban are in full control of the district.

The Pakistani government and military did not directly confirm direct talks with the Taliban, but officials said they were doing everything possible.

The aircraft had permission to fly over Afghan air space on its way to Uzbekistan further north, said Nafees Zakaria, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman, on Thursday.