U.S. officials say there is credible information that Pakistani militants may target foreign aid workers involved in flood relief efforts. U.S. flood aid committed to Pakistan has now reached $200 million.
Officials here say they're taking threats to aid workers, attributed to a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban seriously, and working with Pakistani authorities to boost security.
A Taliban spokesman told the Associated Press Thursday that the United States and western groups providing flood assistance had ulterior motives, and that the presence of a horde of foreigners in Pakistan is unacceptable.
A spokesman for the United Nations, which is helping coordinate the aid effort, said relief workers will not be intimidated by threats or rumors of insecurity and will continue to deliver the help.
At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley declined detailed comment, citing intelligence considerations.
But he said the United States has credible information on the potential targeting of aid workers and is doing everything it can, working with Pakistani officials, to assure that the aid effort continues.
Crowley said the threats are being taken seriously given recent lethal Taliban attacks on aid workers in Afghanistan, and that they underscore the bankrupt vision of the extremist groups.
"We're looking at the potential implications. Security is obviously an ongoing concern to us given what we know happened recently next door in Afghanistan. So we are conscious of this threat. It is a real threa," Crowley said. "We are working with the government of Pakistan. Obviously to the extent that this is something that extremists in Pakistan are contemplating, it demonstrates their disregard for the people of Pakistan."
Crowley confirmed that the Obama administration has decided to re-direct $50 million from the long-term civilian aid package for Pakistan approved by the U.S. Congress last year to deal with flood-related needs.
The five-year, $7.5 billion dollar Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid program - named for its key Congressional sponsors - is aimed at improving infrastructure in Pakistan and demonstrating that the U.S. commitment to the country goes beyond security matters.
The spokesman said that with many of the envisaged Kerry-Lugar-Berman project sites literally underwater, the re-direction of some of the long-term aid money to immediate needs is appropriate.
The move increases the amount of U.S. flood aid already spent or committed to $200 million. Crowley said nearly one million kilograms of U.S. relief supplies have been delivered to Pakistan thus far.