The United States is holding back $800 million in aid to Pakistan, President Obama’s chief of staff confirmed Sunday, as an American foreign policy expert denounced the move that come in the midst of worsening Islamabad-Washington ties.
The measure comes after Pakistan expelled American military trainers, believed to be carrying out clandestine operations inside the country. Appearing on ABC’s ‘This Week’, White House Chief of Staff William Daley confirmed a report in the New York Times that the aid was being withheld. While Pakistan has been an ‘important ally’ in the fight on terrorism, Daley said, “now they’ve taken some steps that have given us reason to pause on some of the aid which we’re giving to the military, and we’re trying to work through that”.
ISPR spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas told media in Islamabad that the Pakistani military was not informed of any such plan. “Since we haven’t received anything in writing,” he said, “we will not comment on this matter.”
Daley said the US and Pakistan are trying to “work through” issues as part of a complicated relationship, and there remains “a lot of pain” in that political system following the US raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May.
He added: “It’s a complicated relationship in a very difficult, complicated part of the world. “But it must be made to work over time. But until we get through these difficulties we will hold back some of the money that the American taxpayers have committed to give them.”
The New York Times, citing three unnamed senior US officials, reported that altogether, “about $800 million in military aid and equipment, or over one-third of the more than $2 billion in annual American security assistance to Pakistan, could be affected.”
Army spokesman Athar Abbas said, “We have said in the past that military aid should be redirected to the civilian area where it’s needed more.” “As far as the impact is concerned,” he added, “we have stated in the past we have conducted operations against militants in the tribal region and they have been successful operations using our own resources without taking any external support. Those operations in the tribal areas will continue.”