x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

US restores military and economic aid to Pakistan

Officials and congressional aides said ties have improved enough to allow the $1.6 billion (Dh5.87bn) to flow again.

WASHINGTON // The US has quietly decided to release more than one billion dollars in military and economic aid to Pakistan that was suspended when relations between the two countries disintegrated over the covert raid that killed Osama bin Laden and deadly US air strikes against Pakistani soldiers.

Officials and congressional aides said ties have improved enough to allow the $1.6 billion (Dh5.87bn) to flow again.

American and Nato supply routes to Afghanistan are open. Controversial US drone strikes are down. The US and Pakistan recently announced the restart of their “strategic dialogue” after a long pause. Pakistan’s new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, is travelling to Washington for talks this coming week with US president Barack Obama.

But in a summer dominated by foreign policy debates over Egypt and chemical weapons attacks in Syria, the US has not promoted its revamped aid relationship with Pakistan. Neither has Pakistan.

The silence reflects the lingering mutual suspicions between the two.

The Pakistanis do not like being seen as dependent on their heavy-handed partners. The Americans are uncomfortable highlighting the billions provided to a government that is plagued by corruption and perceived as often duplicitous in fighting terrorism.

Congress has cleared most of the money, and it should start moving early next year, officials and congressional aides said.

Over three weeks in July and August, the State Department and the US Agency for International Development informed Congress that it planned to restart a wide range of assistance, mostly dedicated to helping Pakistan fight terrorism. The US sees that effort sees as essential as it withdraws troops from neighbouring Afghanistan next year and tries to leave a stable government behind.

Other funds focus on a range of items, including help for Pakistani law enforcement and a multibillion-dollar dam in disputed territory.

US-Pakistani relations have weathered numerous crises in recent years. There was a months-long legal battle over a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistanis, in addition to the fallout from bin Laden’s killing in the Pakistani military town of Abbottabad in May 2011. The Pakistani government was outraged that it received no advance warning of the Navy SEAL raid on bin Laden’s compound.

Adding to the mistrust, the US mistakenly killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers in November 2011. Islamabad responded by shutting land supply routes for troops in Afghanistan until it received a US apology seven months later.

Associated Press