Pakistan’s actions “have given us reason to pause,” White House Chief of Staff William M. Daley said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “Until we get through these difficulties, we’ll hold back some of the money that the American taxpayers have committed to give.”
The withheld aid is worth about $800 million, including a payment of $300 million for reimbursement of Pakistani counterinsurgency expenditures. The money, part of what Pakistan says is more than $1 billion owed on the account, was approved by the Defense Department several months ago but has not been disbursed.
U.S. equipment approved for the Frontier Corps, which is based in the tribal regions where Taliban and al-Qaeda havens are located, also has been withheld, including “ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] gear, explosive ordnance disposal support and equipment, small arms and ammunition, and other soldier kit,” said a senior U.S. military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the classified action.
Delivery of additional items to the Pakistani military — night-vision goggles, helicopter spare parts, communications gear and counter-explosive equipment — also has been suspended.
U.S. officials said that in the case of some of the equipment, there was no point in sending it to Pakistan if U.S. trainers and technicians were not there to instruct local troops in its use. The officials indicated that the shipments would resume if the visa questions and other issues were resolved.
Pakistan has long complained about slowness of U.S. payments and equipment deliveries. A senior Pakistani military official suggested Sunday that the U.S. trainers have been unnecessary from the start of the nearly three-year-old program and that the Americans wanted a military presence on the ground as an “excuse to shape and influence behavior” within Pakistan’s armed forces.
“We don’t need trainers,” the official said, noting that the Pakistani military has trained the troops of more than a dozen nations. “We need the equipment. . . . These are all games.”
The U.S. decision, which was initially reported by the New York Times on Saturday evening, marks the first time that aid has been purposely withheld in response to Pakistani actions. Assistance to Pakistan last year totaled nearly $4.5 billion, more than half of which went to the military.
The bin Laden raid has heightened long-standing tensions on both sides, angering and humiliating the Pakistani military, which was not informed in advance about the operation because U.S. officials feared the information would be leaked. The Obama administration and many lawmakers questioned how bin Laden could have lived for years in a Pakistani garrison city without some official knowledge or support.