Pakistan: US aid cut will not harm fight against terror

 
Pakistani soldier in Kurram tribal region (9 July 2011) Pakistan is engaged in two anti-terror operations in the tribal regions

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Pakistan's army spokesman has said a cut in US military aid will not affect its ability to combat terror groups.

Gen Athar Abbas told the BBC that Islamabad had not yet been officially told of the reason for the $800m (£500m) cuts or what they would entail.

The money equates to about a third of the annual US security aid to Pakistan.

Announcing the move on Sunday, the US said Pakistan was an important ally but that there were "difficulties" to overcome in their relationship.

White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley told ABC television that Pakistan had "taken some steps that have given us reason to pause on some of the aid".

Pakistan has long been considered a vital ally by Washington in the fight against al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, who use safe havens in Pakistan's tribal regions on the Afghan border.

But many in the US Congress have questioned the value of the more than $2bn in military aid sent to Islamabad each year, particularly following the discovery that al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden managed to live undetected in the city of Abbottabad, almost next door to a major military academy.

Analysis

The tormented relationship between the United States and Pakistan is especially bad right now and looks to be getting worse.

In the short-term a total rupture is unlikely. The stakes are too high.

But in the medium term the strategic factors which have underpinned their relationship since the 9/11 attacks in Washington and New York are changing.

The US is scaling back its war on terror. And the Obama administration is hoping to withdraw the overwhelming bulk of its forces from Afghanistan. Vital supply routes through Pakistan will thus no longer be needed.

Pakistan is eager to retain its longstanding interests in its Afghan neighbour and remains suspicious of India's friendship with Kabul.

Defence ties between Beijing and Islamabad are growing. Can they replace those with Washington? Not yet, but the fact that the question is being asked suggests the significance of the underlying changes that are afoot.

The US operation to kill Bin Laden in May this year was carried out without Pakistan being informed in advance.

In a sign of their deteriorating relationship, Pakistan has since expelled more than 100 US military trainers and has threatened to shut down a CIA base. The top US military officer Adm Mike Mullen also suggested last week that the Pakistani government had "sanctioned" the killing in May of journalist Saleem Shahzad.

Civilian needs

Gen Abbas said the move would have "no significant effect" on Pakistan's anti-terror efforts. "We will continue our operations as in the past."

Two major military operations currently under way in the Mohmand and Kurram tribal regions were being run without external support and would continue, he said, adding that al-Qaeda and other military groups operating in Pakistan were "not only a threat to us but to others".

Gen Abbas said he could not say which parts of the military would be worst hit until US officials told him what sections of aid were being cut.

But he said Pakistan's army chief had already been asking for military aid to be redirected towards civilian areas, where it was needed more.

The increasing US drone attack on militants inside Pakistan along the Afghan border is also a continuing source of antagonism - there are regular complaints of civilian casualties.

US-Pakistan downturn

  • 2 May: US announces Bin Laden's death and says Pakistan not warned of raid
  • 14 May: Pakistan MPs demand review of US ties
  • 26 May: US announces withdrawal of some US troops at Pakistan's request
  • 27 May: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits to try to soothe relations
  • 2 June: Top US military chief Adm Mike Mullen admits "significant" cut in US troops in Pakistan
  • 10 June: CIA head Leon Panetta visits Pakistan; US admits "slow progress" in healing ties
  • 8 July: Adm Mullen says Pakistan sanctioned killing of a journalist; Pakistan angrily rejects this
  • 10 July: US suspends $800m of military aid

On Sunday, Mr Daley accepted that Pakistan had been "an important ally in the fight on terrorism" while also being "the victim of enormous amounts of terrorism".

But he said there was "a complicated relationship in a very difficult, complicated part of the world.

"Obviously, there's still lot of pain that the political system in Pakistan is feeling by virtue of the raid that we did to get Osama Bin Laden, something that the president felt strongly about and we have no regrets over.

"Until we get through these difficulties, we will hold back some of the money that the American taxpayers have committed to give them."

A New York Times article on Saturday said some of the suspended aid had been earmarked as compensation for Pakistan's redeployment of troops to Afghan border areas to fight militants. Other cuts were in military equipment.

In figures submitted to the International Monetary Fund last autumn, Pakistan's defence expenditure in its 2010-2011 budget was put at $6.41bn - an increase of $1.27bn on the previous year.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 37.

    I see the world power shifting to the east and this deteriorating relationship between the two countries should add on that. Moreover, there should be a decrease in militants action in Pakistan as the US is more withdrawing itself from the country.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 9.

    With US aid being withdrawn concern arisis over the fact that USA may be wanting to take this war into its own hands, meaning more and more target killings like "Operation OBL"; which is not a good sign for Pakistan in any way.As for Pakistan's in ability to manage their relationship with USA and the funds given, one can only feel disappointed and let down.However US is never far from fault.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 2.

    As a Pakistani, I am incredibly glad that they have cut this aid down. I want them to take it all away. The general public here has more domestic issues to deal with, we simply do not want to waste our time battling other country's wars. The Western media has, time and time again, only focused on one aspect of this war, ignoring all others. Quite simply, this aid cut is a blessing in disguise.

 
 

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