World

Did Trump Fail to Put Pakistan on the Terror Finance Watch List?

Update | Pakistan was not included on the list of countries financing terror, according to a Financial Action Task Force statement released Friday.

The report includes a roster of nations with deficiencies on anti-money laundering strategies and combating the financing of terrorism. Ethiopia, Iraq, Serbia, Sri Lanka and Yemen are some of the countries that still fall short of the organization's compliance process. Bosnia and Herzegovina is the only jurisdiction that showed significant progress, according to the statement. 

The U.S. bid to include Pakistan on a list of countries that help finance terrorism failed this week, officials in Islamabad declared. A representative of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering, the inter-governmental body that combats terrorist financing and money laundering, told Newsweek on Thursday that the decision had not been made.

“The meeting begins Tuesday and finishes on Friday,” the task force representative said at the time. “The final decision will be announced then.”

However, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif claimed that his country had already secured the necessary support to remain off the list of countries financing terrorism. In a tweet on Tuesday afternoon, Asif said that task force members had failed to reach consensus and proposed a three-month pause for further research. This would grant Pakistan reprieve until June, when a report on the issue would be reconsidered.

“Grateful to friends who helped,” Asif tweeted, without mentioning which countries had supported Pakistan.

Some experts say Asif has likely concluded that Pakistan has enough of the task force members on its side to earn the reprieve, even if the official announcement hasn’t been made yet.

“What I think happened is that Pakistan's FM Asif concluded, accurately I'm sure, that Pakistan had enough FATF members on its side to earn the reprieve, and he decided to jump the gun and announce the expected retrieve before FATF's formal decision,” Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia program at the Wilson Center, told Newsweek.

Meanwhile, media outlets in Pakistan parroted the news as if it were a fait accompli. Saudi Arabia, China and Turkey oppose Pakistan’s inclusion on the list, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The FATF has 37 member countries that include some of the major players in international diplomacy. Being included on the list could have negative consequences for Pakistan's fragile economy, as foreign investors and banks could get scared off. 

"It's risky to do business in a country deemed to not be doing enough to keep money out of terrorists' hands, and investors and bankers won't take that risk lightly," Kugelman told Newsweek. 

Countries like North Korea and Syria have been singled out by the FATF in the past. 

If Friday’s announcement confirms Asif’s statement, it will be a huge diplomatic blow to the Trump administration.

“The failure to reach consensus on this issue shows the weakening diplomatic influence of the U.S. on the international stage. In regards to the U.S.-Pakistan relationship moving forward, this could signal a drastic re-definition of the alliance,” Harrison Akins, a security expert at the Howard Baker Center, told Newsweek. “Pakistan, now, sees little worth in maintaining an alliance with the U.S. as it increasingly relies on China and other allies for military support.”

In early January, the Trump administration announced that it would cut all security aid to Pakistan until the country cracks down on terror groups operating within its borders. President Donald Trump also took to Twitter to criticize the country for not doing enough to combat the Taliban. Since then, Pakistan has worked to solidify its relationship with other world powers like China and Russia.

Asif is on a diplomatic trip to Moscow this week. 

The article includes an excerpt of FATF's official statement.