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Pakistan Threatens to Pull Soldiers From Tribal Regions

Pakistani Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar (file photo)

Pakistani Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar (file photo)

Pakistan's defense minister says if the United States cuts off $800 million in military aid, the government may recall troops fighting militants in the restive tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

Ahmed Mukhtar told Pakistani media on Tuesday that Islamabad cannot afford to keep its soldiers out in the mountains for such a long period.

The White House confirmed Sunday that about a third of the $2.7 billion in annual U.S. military assistance to Pakistan will be withheld. The $800 million reportedly includes reimbursement to Pakistan for keeping its troops in the tribal region.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel David Lapan said Tuesday the aid suspension is directly tied to decisions by the Pakistani military to expel American military trainers and put limits on visas for U.S. personnel.

After Monday's announcement, Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told VOA that reduced U.S. aid will not hamper operations against al-Qaida and Taliban militants. General Abbas said that defeating terrorism is in the interest of both countries, but he also warned that aid with conditions is unacceptable.