A top White House official says the United States is suspending some $800 million in military aid to Pakistan, a move some analysts say is being made to pressure the Pakistani military to step up cooperation. The decision comes as ties between the two countries are under intense strain in the wake of the U.S. raid on a compound in Pakistan that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
White House Chief of Staff William Daley says that while the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is difficult and complex, it must be made to work over time.
"They've been an important ally in the fight on terrorism. They've been the victim of enormous amounts of terrorism. But right now, they've taken some steps that have given us reason to pause on some of the aid which we were giving to their military. And we're trying to work through that," he said.
Daley made his comments on ABC's This Week program on Sunday when asked about a New York Times article that first revealed the U.S. decision to suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Pakistan military.
Daley did not say what steps Pakistan had taken that gave the U.S. reason to suspend funding. U.S. officials have been quoted as saying that the move is a response to Islamabad's decision to expel American military trainers and put limits on visas for U.S. personnel, among other actions.
Analysts say the suspension was also aimed at pressuring Pakistan to do more to cooperate with the U.S. to fight militants.
Ties between between Washington and Islamabad have become increasingly strained in recent months. Just last week, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, sparked a strong response from Pakistan when he commented on the murder of Pakistani reporter Saleem Shahzad, who was beaten to death in May. While Mullen said he could not tie the killing to a specific Pakistani government agency, he said he had not seen anything to counter reports that Islamabad approved the murder.
Pakistan's government denounced his comments, calling them "extremely irresponsible and unfortunate."
Marvin Weinbaum, a scholar in residence at the Washington D.C.-based Middle East Institute, says the administration's move is a "high-stakes gamble" that is unlikely to make Pakistan more cooperative. "The difficulty here is that there are within Pakistan's public but even within the military itself, there are many people whose attitude is we don't care for [the] U.S. military or any other assistance for that matter," he said.
Weinbaum says that the suspension of U.S. aid is likely to make it more difficult for Pakistan to fight militants along its borders. "All of the efforts that Pakistan has been putting into dealing with the militants and extremists at the border have gone to [fighting] those elements that are threatening Pakistan. And have been of limited value, in dealing with the insurgency in Afghanistan and that's what the United States is concerned about," he said.
Last year, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service, the United States provided Pakistan with nearly four-and-a-half billion dollars in military and civilian aid. The military aid accounted for more than half of that total, or $2.7 billion.
VOA'S Urdu service also contributed to this report.