What another $2 billion in US military aid means for Pakistan

Despite recent tensions between Islamabad and Washington, Pakistan is set to receive another $2 billion in US military assistance over the next five years.

Shakil Adil/AP
A soldier of the Pakistani para military force observes pedestrians during a patrol to ensure security in Karachi, Pakistan, on Oct. 20. The US announced a $2 billion military aid package to Pakistan on Friday.

The US announced a $2 billion military aid package to Pakistan on Friday to bolster Islamabad’s efforts to combat militants and assist with Afghanistan war.

The news comes amid bombings on Friday that killed a combined nine people, including six soldiers, in Peshawar and Pakistan's northwest tribal region.

The five-year package, which requires Congressional approval, is likely to be seen here as a strong diplomatic victory that signals a commitment to Pakistan extending beyond the slated withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan in 2011 – and despite recent tensions between Washington and Islamabad.

The package is designed to compliment a $7.5 billion civilian aid deal, which was approved in 2009 and is intended to help thwart extremism through development projects.

“The United States has no stronger partner when it comes to counterterrorism efforts against the extremists who threaten us both than Pakistan,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday at the close of three-day strategic talks between the two nations in Washington.

“This symbolizes a long-term commitment to help Pakistan improve its counterterror capacity and deal with threats emanating from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border but also elsewhere,” says Rifaat Hussain, a security analyst and the Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad. “It reiterates that the US-Pakistan relationship is for the long term and America will be able to help Pakistan military.”

At the same time, the Associated Press reported Friday that the US may withhold military training and supplies from units linked to recent human rights violations, such as the recent killings of unarmed Taliban prisoners.

Relations between the two countries plunged last month after a series of alleged cross-border violations by NATO resulted in the deaths of three soldiers. That, in turn, led Pakistan to close a key-supply line into Afghanistan for several days.

Christine Fair, who has advised the Obama administration on its Pakistan policy and is an assistant professor at Georgetown University, told the Monitor that both sides were furious at each other.

Pakistan's military wanted "to remind the Americans that they have us where they want us.... Pakistan is the only logistical option for [transporting] the supplies," she said.

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, told the Monitor in an e-mail response to questions that US military and civilian aid is just one aspect of an “evolving strategic partnership."

“Both sides are working on overcoming historic grievances and suspicions and focusing on operationalizing the realization that we both need each other,” he said.

The announcement is also likely to further irk Pakistan’s neighbor and long-time rival India, where President Obama is due to visit next month, and follows an announcement Thursday that he will also visit Pakistan in 2011.

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