U.S. To Ask Congress For $2B In Aid For Pakistan

The United States has announced another $2 billion in assistance for Pakistan, but warns that it will cut funding for Pakistani military units that kill unarmed prisoners and civilians.

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The U.S. government plans to give Pakistan another $2 billion in military aid to fight extremist groups. The announcement comes at the end of three days of high level talks here in Washington. It also comes after intense behind the scenes pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terrorist sanctuaries along its border with Afghanistan.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN: In public, the strategic dialogue seemed to be aimed at bucking up the Pakistani government.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (State Department): The United States has no stronger partner when it comes to counterterrorism efforts against the extremists who threaten us both, than Pakistan.

KELEMEN: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the Obama administration will seek from Congress $2 billion to help equip Pakistani forces to fight extremists. She says that five-year program will compliment $7.5 billion in civilian projects that Congress has already approved.

Her Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, says his country is a committed partner that has sacrificed much.

Mr. SHAH MEHMOOD QURESHI (Foreign Minister, Pakistan): There are still tongue and cheek comments, even in this capital, about Pakistan's heart not really being in this fight. We do not know what greater evidence to offer than the blood of our people. Madame Secretary, we are determined to win this fight.

KELEMEN: But there are some Pakistani units that won't be seeing any U.S. taxpayer dollars, according to Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont. He's the author of the Leahy Amendment, which requires the U.S. to cut off aid to military units accused of gross violations of human rights.

Senator PATRICK LEAHY (Democrat, Vermont): The Leahy law certainly appears to be violated and I appreciate the fact the administration is taking it seriously. So there will be areas where it will be cut.

KELEMEN: In a telephone interview from Vermont, Senator Leahy says he was particularly concerned by a video that surfaced on the Internet recently that seems to show armed men in Pakistani military uniforms executing six people in civilian clothes.

Sen. LEAHY: The video that surfaced several weeks ago of the killings, actually murders of several people by members of the Pakistani military would shock anybody.

KELEMEN: The chairman of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee says he will work with the Obama administration and with his colleagues on Capitol Hill to decide just how much aid to withhold.

Sen. LEAHY: We're going to be doing the appropriations bill as soon as we come back into session. I've already told my staff to put aid to Pakistan on hold as we write that bill, while I wait to see what steps the Pakistanis are taking.

KELEMEN: This was one of the many topics discussed during the U.S./Pakistan dialogue. Pakistan assured the U.S. that it is investigating the video. And Secretary Clinton said the Obama administration will abide by the Leahy Amendment.

Sec. CLINTON: We take all allegations of human rights abuses seriously and we discuss them with the government of Pakistan and we follow the law and deal with any issues that come to our attention.

KELEMEN: The U.S. also had some apologizing to do this week. Pakistan was furious about a recent cross border U.S. helicopter strike that killed two Pakistani frontier guards.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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