WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The United States is withholding some $800 million in military assistance to Pakistan in a show of displeasure over its cutback on U.S. trainers, limits on visas for U.S. personnel and other bilateral irritants, the Obama administration said yesterday.
Pakistani authorities have “taken some steps that have given us reason to pause on some of the aid which we’re giving to the military,” White House Chief of Staff William Daley said on ABC television’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour.”
As a result, “We’ll 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 assistance.
The U.S. Defense Department said Pakistan’s army had requested a “significant cutback” of U.S. military trainers and limited the ability of U.S. 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 can’t 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 United States has pushed one of its key counterterrorism partners to boost efforts against Taliban and other militants fighting western forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
Pakistan also is smarting from the surprise U.S. raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on May 2 in a Pakistani garrison town, as well as U.S. drone attacks and night raids that have killed civilians as well as militants.