The Obama administration has decided to take a harder line with Pakistan and suspend $800 million in aid to their military. Obama’s chief of staff, William Daley, said in a interview that the estranged relationship between the U.S. and the Muslim country must be made “to work over time,” but until it does, “we’ll hold back some of the money that the American taxpayers are committed to give” to their military forces.
The suspension of U.S. aid followed a statement last week by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, that Pakistan’s security services may have sanctioned the killing of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad who reported on extremists within the military.
The allegation was rejected by Pakistan’s military establishment, including the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, which has historic ties to the Taliban and other militant groups and which many Western analysts regard as a state-within-a-state.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters traveling with him to Afghanistan that the U.S. will continue to press Pakistan in the fight against extremists, including al-Qaida’s new leader, Ayman al-Zawahri.
“We have to continue to emphasize with the Pakistanis that in the end it’s in their interest to be able to go after these targets as well,” Panetta said. “And in the discussions I’ve had with them, I have to say that, you know, they’re giving us cooperation in going after some of these targets. We’ve got to continue to push them to do that. That’s key.”
Tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan were ratcheted up in January, when CIA security contractor Raymond Davis shot and killed two Pakistanis who he said were trying to rob him. They got worse in May, when U.S. forces killed bin Laden during a covert raid on a home in Abbottabad.
In the U.S., there was understandable outrage at the possibility that some Pakistan officials may have known of the terrorist leader’s whereabouts. In Pakistan, there was anger that the U.S. carried out the operation without alerting them and that the op violated their sovereignty.
The $800 million in suspended aid represents 40 percent of the $2 billion in U.S. military aid to Pakistan. Some of the money represented equipment that can’t be set up for training because Pakistan won’t give visas to the trainers. About $300 million was intended to reimburse Pakistan for the cost of deploying 100,000 troops along the Afghan border.
A senior U.S. official confirmed that the suspension of funds came in response to the Pakistani army’s decision to significantly reduce the number of visas for U.S. military trainers. “We remain committed to helping Pakistan build its capabilities, but we have communicated to Pakistani officials on numerous occasions that we require certain support in order to provide certain assistance,” a senior U.S. official told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently told senators that “when it comes to our military aid, we are not prepared to continue providing that at the pace we were providing it unless we see certain steps taken.”
Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas declined comment on the suspension. He pointed to comments by Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who last month said U.S. military aid should be diverted to civilian projects.