Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

US cuts funding to Pakistan

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Relations between the USA and Pakistan have been cool for some time, especially when it was revealed that the al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden had been hiding for at least five years in Abbottabad - a town at the centre of Pakistan's military infrastructure. This revelation prompted a new round of accusations about Pakistani complicity with al-Qaeda.

The US has now announced that it is withholding $800 million ($A748 million) of cash and equipment to Pakistan's military. On July 10, William Daley, President Obama's Chief of Staff, said that the US had decided to withhold more than a third of the more than $2 billion annual package in protest at Pakistan's decision to cut back on counter-terrorism co-operation after Osama bin Laden's killing.

The Australian reported:

"The decision sends an explicit message to Islamabad: if it wants US aid, it will be on American terms. The shipments of rifles, ammunition and body armour were intended for Pakistani troops being trained by American officers who Islamabad ordered out of the country in anger at the US Special Forces' raid on bin Laden's hiding place. Other shipments of radios, night-vision goggles and helicopter spare parts are being halted because Pakistan has refused visas to the American personnel required to set up and operate the equipment. In what may be the biggest blow, Washington is withholding dollars $300m in cash intended to reimburse Pakistan for some of the costs of deploying more than 100,000 soldiers along the Afghan border."

This shift in funding, in addition to a statement by an American military officer last week linking Pakistan's military spy agency to the recent murder of a Pakistani journalist, highlights the debate in the US Administration on how to change the behavior of Pakistan - one of its key partners in counterterrorism.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Senate committee last month that when it comes to US military aid "we are not prepared to continue providing that at the pace we were providing it unless and until we see certain steps taken."

The US response is intended to send a strong message that the US will no longer tolerate Pakistan's "double game" in which leaders have been happy to accept aid intended for the fight against militants linked to al-Qaeda, while elements of its military and intelligence establishment give them secret support.