U.S. Suspends Millions In Aid To Pakistan

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Washington is suspending military aid to Pakistan. The aid deferral is due to Pakistan's expulsion of U.S. military advisers and because of its perceived lack of zeal in pursuing militants. But this is only the latest in a series U.S. reprimands for Pakistan.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Mary Louise Kelly.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. We have an update on two allies that aren't really sure if they're allies.

KELLY: The allies are the U.S. and Pakistan. In a moment, we'll hear about the program that sends U.S. drones over Pakistan.

INSKEEP: We begin with an American decision to suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid and equipment to Pakistan.

NPR's Julie McCarthy is covering the story from Islamabad.

Hi, Julie.

JULIE MCCARTHY: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: Why suspend military aid?

MCCARTHY: Well, Pakistan expelled a lot of U.S. military trainers here and sharply cut back the visas for American personnel, all signs of this eroding relationship. The U.S. also wanted Pakistan to shut down militant bomb factories, and they didn't. And the White House Chief of Staff William Daley said that Pakistan had taken steps that gave the U.S. reason to pause. Here he is on ABC's "This Week."

(Soundbite of TV show, "This Week")

Mr. WILLIAM DALEY (White House Chief of Staff): Obviously, there is still a lot of pain that the political system in Pakistan is feeling by virtue of the raid that we did to get Osama bin Laden. But until we get through these difficulties, we will hold back some of the money that the American taxpayers have committed.

MCCARTHY: Some analysts here consider this censure of Pakistan a mistake. They say the U.S. needs Pakistan to smooth its exit from Afghanistan and fight al-Qaida. But Steve, lurking in the background is Pakistan's perceived lack of zeal in pursuing militants.

INSKEEP: Of course, it got really bad when Osama bin Laden was found and killed inside Pakistan. And then over the weekend, the new American Secretary Defense Leon Panetta visited Afghanistan and said - more specifically that American officials have said in the past - that he thinks al-Qaida's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is somewhere in Pakistan's tribal areas.

MCCARTHY: That's right. Pakistan is unhappy again about the insinuation that it's holding back somehow, and that it's asked the U.S. for actionable intelligence. And Steve, what that suggests is that there's still no joint tracking of these high-value targets, even after Osama bin Laden.

But the army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said Pakistan was not relenting in hunting al-Qaida, and that withholding aid wasn't going to affect that.

Major General ATHAR ABBAS (Spokesman, Pakistan Defence Forces): These are the terrorists, al-Qaida, which are common enemy of Pakistan, as well as U.S. and other Western countries. And therefore, in this the CIA and the ISI are cooperating towards eliminating the common enemy.

MCCARTHY: The ISI being Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency.

The New York Times reported last week that the ISI was behind the killing of a journalist who'd written about sensitive security issues. And the paper called for the ISI chief, General Pasha, to resign.

INSKEEP: And on top of that, you had Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, raising concerns about whether the Pakistani government sanctioned that killing.

MCCARTHY: That's right. It's part of a series of reprimands that the United States has made in recent weeks. Most of them have first appeared in the New York Times. And there is a suspicion here, Steve, that the U.S. government is leaking to the newspaper to create a narrative on Pakistan's supposed bad behavior. And General Abbas is taking the New York Times to task.

Maj. Gen. ABBAS: This is a high time that New York Times should look towards its editorial policy. And with a series of these allegations and false reporting, I only hope that they do not end up apologizing the way they did after the Iraq War.

MCCARTHY: Oh, he's referring to stories that said that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when, in fact, there were not. So like it or not, the paper is becoming a player in this unspooling relationship.

INSKEEP: Well, let me just ask one thing, Julie McCarthy, if - as everyone seems to insist - the United States really needs Pakistan's help, and yet the United States is criticizing Pakistan, might some Pakistanis realize that some of the criticism must be sincere?

MCCARTHY: Well, yes. I mean, this pushback is not across the board. There are people here who believe that the United States has legitimate grievances about Pakistan's willingness, its capacity to go after the array of militants here that has made it a haven of global terrorism.

INSKEEP: NPR's Julie McCarthy is in Islamabad.

Julie, thanks very much.

MCCARTHY: Thank you.

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