US suspends military aid to Pakistan

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The Independent Online

The US is suspending around $800m (£497m) in military assistance to Pakistan, a move that will further worsen the relationship between the two countries. In the latest salvo in the battle of words and deeds between the two supposed allies, William Daley, Barack Obama's Chief of Staff, said the relationship must be made "to work over time". Yet he told ABC television that until "we get through that difficulty, we'll hold back some of the money that the American taxpayers are committed to give".

The confirmation from Mr Daley followed a report in The New York Times that said around one-third of the military aid and equipment the US provides could be halted. About $300m of that funding is to reimburse Pakistan for deploying more than 100,000 troops along the Afghan border to combat Taliban and other militant forces.

Yet Washington complains Pakistan does not do enough to tackle militants operating in the country and may even be helping them, while Islamabad complains about the US's continued use of drone strikes and the way it undermined the country's sovereignty when it killed Osama bin Laden. The relationship between the two nations has turned increasingly tense since that 2 May operation to kill the al-Qa'ida leader in Abbottabad. The Pakistan military, embarrassed both by the fact Bin Laden was found living in the country and that it was not told of the operation to kill him, has ordered US and British military trainers to leave the country.

Last week, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, accused Pakistan of "sanctioning" the kidnapping and killing of the journalist, Saleem Shahzad, who was seized and murdered at the end of May.

Cyril Almeida, a leading Pakistani columnist, said the cuts could relate to money Islamabad may never actually have received, either because of the blocking of trainers or else the result of a backlog on payments for counter-insurgency operations. Yet he added: "Turning the screws on the military – which is still the most powerful symbol of all that is Pakistan – will be interpreted as part of a strategy to further isolate Pakistan and undermine her legitimate national interests."

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