Washington, July 10 (Reuters): The US is withholding some $800 million in military assistance to Pakistan in a show of displeasure over its cutback on American trainers, limits on visas for personnel and other bilateral irritants, the Obama administration said today.
Pakistani authorities have taken some steps that have given us reason to pause on some of the aid which were giving to the military, White House Chief of Staff William Daley said on ABC televisions This Week with Christiane Amanpour.
As a result, well hold back some of the money that the American taxpayers have committed to give, he said, adding this amounted to about $800 million, or more than a third of the $2 billion given to Pakistan for security aid.
The US defence department said Pakistans army had requested a significant cutback of military trainers and limited the ability of American personnel to obtain visas.
While the Pakistani military leadership tells us this is a temporary step, the reduced presence of our trainers and other personnel means we cant deliver the assistance that requires training and support to be effective, the department said in a written response to questions.
Bilateral ties have been under mounting strain as the US has pushed one of its key counter-terrorism partners to boost efforts against Taliban and other militants fighting western forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Pakistan is also smarting from the US raid that killed al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden on May 2 in a garrison town, as well as US drone attacks and night raids that have killed civilians and militants.
The New York Times, which reported the aid curtailment in its Sunday editions, said Pakistan has shut down a US programme that had been training paramilitary forces, sending home more than 100 US trainers in recent weeks, and has threatened to close the base the CIA has been using for pilotless plane attacks on militant targets.
The US-Pakistan relationship was also damaged last year after a CIA contractor in Lahore killed two Pakistanis he said were trying to rob him.
The defence department in its reply said a series of events over the last eight months have affected our bilateral relations. We remain committed to helping Pakistan build its capabilities but we have communicated to Pakistani officials on numerous occasions that we require certain support in order to provide certain assistance, the Pentagon said.
The state department added: We are taking a very clear-eyed approach to our relationship with Pakistan — weighing both the importance of a continued long-term relationship and the importance of near-term action on key issues.