WASHINGTON DC (Agencies) - Struggling hard to restore its ties with Pakistan in the aftermath of Nato airstrike last month, the Obama administration on Tuesday said it had not cut any civilian aid to Pakistan, noting that it was an on-going move in the Congress right now.
“Well, first of all, just to clarify what has and hasn’t happened here in our understanding. We have not cut $700 million in aid to Pakistan,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters at her daily news conference. “What we have is something on the defence authorisation bill, which is currently moving in the Congress, which would require the Department of Defence to continue providing a strategy on how we will use certain military assistance and measure its progress, in particular on progress that we are making with Pakistan on the IED issue,” Nuland said in response to a question.
“If this legislation becomes law, we’ll work with the government of Pakistan on how we can fulfill the requirements. But this requires us to maintain a strategic perspective and to be clear with our Congress about the strategy,” she said.
“As you know, this is a subject that the US and Pakistan have been working on for some time together, both through DOD programs and through State Department programs,” Nuland said.
The spokesperson did not comment in detail when asked about the conference of the diplomatic corps in Pakistan chaired by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
“I don’t have a comment specifically on the outcome of the conference. I don’t have full information from our embassy after the conference. I think you know our view that while this relationship is sometimes difficult, it’s very important for the US and Pakistan to continue to work together, particularly on threats that face both of us,” she said.
“Our dialogue with them continues on how we can do that together,” Nuland said.
Special correspondent adds: Amid worsening Islamabad-Washington relations, a Congressional panel has agreed to freeze $700 million in US aid to Pakistan unless it helps in the fight against homemade bombs in Afghanistan.
The freeze on US aid was agreed to by leaders of the armed services committees from both Republican and Democratic parties in the House and Senate as part of a defence bill that is expected to be passed this week. The US wants “assurances that Pakistan is countering improvised explosive devices in their country that are targeting our coalition forces”, Republican House Representative Howard McKeon told reporters Monday.
The US claims that many devices are made using ammonium nitrate, a common fertiliser shipped across the border from Pakistan.
He said the bill would also require the Pentagon to deliver a strategy for improving the effectiveness of US aid to Pakistan.
“The vast majority of the material used to make improvised explosive devices used against US forces in Afghanistan originates from two fertilizer factories inside Pakistan,” Senator John McCain, 2008 Republican presidential candidate, said last week.
The freeze agreement comes amid the high tensions between Islamabad and Washington over the deadly Nov 26 NATO airstrike killing 24 Pakistani soldiers near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
US relations with the key ally have been strained since the May 2 US raid in which Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in his hideout in the military town of Abbottabad near Islamabad.
In the defence bill, Congress is specifically looking to prod Pakistan to take more action against homemade bombs, arguing that fertilizer smuggled into Afghanistan is being used to create explosives.