WASHINGTON – With ties between the two nations strained after American commandos killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison city, the Obama administration said it will suspend more than one-third of the $2 billion in annual U.S. aid to Pakistan’s military.
President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, William Daley, confirmed Sunday that the United States will hold back $800 million of the money the administration had committed to assist the Pakistani military.
Pakistani authorities have pulled back on the country’s level of cooperation with the U.S. in recent months.
“They (Pakistani officials) have taken some steps that have given us reason to pause on some of the aid which we were giving to their military,” Daley said on ABC’s “This Week.” The suspension of aid was first reported in the New York Times.
Describing the relationship with the Pakistani government as “very complicated,” Daley said that Obama’s decision to launch the raid against bin Laden without giving the Pakistani government advance notice is “something that the president felt strongly about and we have no regrets over.”
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Pakistani security forces have worked with the U.S. to target al-Qaida operatives inside Pakistan and in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. But U.S. officials often have expressed frustration that Pakistani authorities appear to be willing to target some fighters and leave others untouched.
The relationship was further tested in January when CIA contractor Raymond Davis shot and killed two men he said were trying to rob him in the city of Lahore. He was charged with murder but ultimately was released and left Pakistan in March.
After that incident, Pakistan ordered several dozen U.S. special operations trainers to leave the country.
Then, on May 2, a team of U.S. Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in Abbottabad, about a two-hour drive from the capital, Islamabad. The raid was seen in Pakistan as a violation of its sovereignty and sparked violent anti-American protests. But in the U.S., the action raised questions about how bin Laden could hide in a Pakistani garrison town for five years without the knowledge of Pakistani authorities.
Bruce Riedel is a former CIA officer who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, a Washington-based think tank.
Not only is the U.S.-Pakistan relationship in a “downward spiral,” Riedel said, but “It doesn’t look like there is any bottom in sight. It is hard to imagine things getting better, and easy to imagine things getting worse.”