US to give $2bn to Pakistan army

The US lays out $2bn military aid package for Pakistan as it pressures Islamabad to crack down on Taliban and al-Qaeda.

The goal of the aid package is to ramp up US military aid to Pakistan over a five-year period [Reuters]

The US has announced it will release a $2bn military aid package to Pakistan over a five-year period, as it pressed the Islamabad government to step up the fight against Taliban fighters and al-Qaeda affiliates there and in Afghanistan.

The administration of Barack Obama, the US president, will ask Congress for $2bn for Pakistan to purchase US-made arms, ammunition and accessories from 2012 to 2016.

Speaking alongside Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the US secretary of state, announced the plan in Washington on Friday.

 “The United States has no stronger partner when it comes to counterterrorism efforts against the extremists who threaten us both than Pakistan,” said Clinton, who unveiled the plans at the end of the latest round of US-Pakistani strategic talks.

The new military aid replaces a similar but less valuable package that began in 2005 and expired on October 1.

It will complement $7.5bn in civilian assistance the administration has already committed to Pakistan over five years, some of which has been diverted to help the country deal with devastating floods.

Washington hopes the announcement of the new package will reassure Pakistan of the long-term US commitment to Pakistan’s military needs.

‘Abusive’ units

Friday’s aid package was announced a day after the New York Times and Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported that the US will cut off aid to several Pakistani army units believed to have killed civilians and unarmed prisoners.

The two newspapers reported that some US-backed Pakistani army and special operations troops who have been in action against Taliban fighters in Swat Valley and South Waziristan along the border region with Afghanistan, will be affected by the decision.

The new aid package will not benefit Pakistani military units suspected of being involved in abuses that include extrajudicial killings and torture.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that funding to the Pakistani units suspected of the abuses has been cut under a 1997 amendment, which bars US military assistance from going to foreign armed forces suspected of committing atrocities.

Calling the charges of abuse “an excuse” to place conditions on the package, Senator Talha Mahmood, the chairman of Pakistan’s senate standing committee for the ministry of the interior, told Al Jazeera that placing conditions on aid showed the US wanted to “impose” decisions on Pakistan.

He dismissed the importance of the US aid packages as, he said, Pakistan has already “lost $100bn” in the war against the Taliban.

“We are very important allies of Nato forces. We have sacrificed more than 30,000 causalities in Pakistan,” said Mahmood.

Partnership tested 

The US hopes the aid will help Pakistan bolster its efforts to go after Taliban and al-Qaeda affiliates
on its territory.

This week’s talks in Washington – the third round of the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue – came as the countries tried to ease tensions over US military incursions across the border from Afghanistan and allegations that Islamabad is not doing enough to target Taliban fighters.

The US has signalled that its patience is running out with Islamabad’s reluctance to take on the fighters, a stance that has not changed despite billions of dollars in US aid.

During the last round in Islamabad in July, Clinton announced more than $500m in aid for a variety of projects, including renovating hospitals, improving water distribution and upgrading hydroelectric dams.

The US had to re-examine its plans after the meeting, however, after Pakistan was hit by the worst floods in the country’s history.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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