islamabad - With the US engagement in Afghanistan reducing, an American scholar sees Washington’s aid level and pattern for Pakistan changing.

Speaking on Pak-US ties after the drawdown of coalition forces from Afghanistan at the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), an Islamabad-based think tank, Dr Kenneth Holland, an Afghanistan expert said the two countries were now more focused on transforming the relationship from aid to trade. “Both countries agree that greater trade between the United States and Pakistan is desirable,” Dr Holland, who heads the Centre for International Development at Ball State University of Muncie, Indiana (US), said.

Dr Holland recalled that there had been fears that after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the US would attach lesser significance to the region, because of which the level of financial assistance to Pakistan would either stagnate or fall.

There has been a sharp decline in US aid for Pakistan since 2014, a time when Kerry-Lugar assistance programme was ending. The aid, which was about $1.5 billion in 2010, has now reduced to about $500 per annum.

The bilateral trade volume has, meanwhile, largely remained stagnant. Last year it was $5.3 billion and Pakistan is currently America’s 62nd largest goods trading partner.

Dr Holland noted the steps being taken by Pakistani government for promoting trade, including its commitment to promote an investment friendly environment. Pakistan also hosted the US-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference in March this year. He said Pakistan was particularly keen in getting investment in its energy sector.

Besides the shift to trade, he said, the composition of aid is also changing. The military component of the aid is on decline, while the economic assistance constitutes a greater portion of the aid. The US now annually gives $500 million in economic assistance to Pakistan, while the military aid is about $280 million. Since July 2012, the US has delivered over $1.15 billion in security assistance to Pakistan.

Dr Holland also pointed out the imminent end to the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) – a reimbursement of the expenses made by Pakistan in support of US military operations in Afghanistan – as yet another indication of falling American financial assistance for Pakistan.

“The loss of CSF would be a big setback for Pakistan’s treasury,” he said, adding that Pakistanis have been using CSF inflows for reducing their current account deficit.

Outlining the key elements of US policy towards Pakistan, Dr Holland said, it was based on four goals viz elimination of terrorism, nuclear security, building a united and prosperous Pakistan, and addressing Pakistan’s energy problems.

The US government, he said, has been appreciative of the Pakistan government’s counter-terrorism operations and its efforts to improve ties with Afghanistan and India.

“The United States applauds Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s efforts to promote a peaceful neighbourhood in South Asia, a precondition for tangible progress in the fields of economic growth and development in the region,” he said.

“The US does not share Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s new hostile attitude towards Pakistan,” he said regretting that Afghan president’s attitude had changed drastically.

He attributed the change in President Ghani’s attitude to increase in insurgent attacks in Afghanistan that have led to higher civilian casualties.