Since the launch of the War on Terror by the U.S. in the wake of the September 11 (2001) terror attacks, Pakistan has received over U.S.$10 billion in military aid from the U.S. for fighting terrorists.
(However, this move does not affect the U.S. pledge of U.S.$1.5 billion in annual economic and development assistance to Pakistan through 2014.)
In an interview with ABC News, Bill Daley, White House Chief of Staff, said this: “The truth of the matter is, our relationship with Pakistan is very complicated. Obviously, they’ve been an important ally in the fight on terrorism. They have 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’re giving to the military, and we’re trying to work through that. It’s a complicated relationship and a very difficult complicated part of the world. Obviously there's 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. Something that the president felt strongly about. We have no regrets over. But the Pakistani relationship is difficult, but it must be made to work over time. But until we get through these difficulties, we’ll hold back some of the money that the American taxpayers have committed to give."
Among the major reasons behind the U.S. decision to pull the plug on military aid to Pakistan, here are a few:
(a) Pakistan's two-faced approach to fighting terror: For several years now, Pakistan's military has fought against the Pakistani Taliban while turning a Nelson's Eye to the dangerous Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani terrorist network.
While the Pakistani Taliban is fighting the Pakistani State, i.e. the political and military establishment (hence the Paki military action against the group), the main targets of the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network are the U.S.-led international forces.
Both the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network are used by Pakistan to gain strategic depth in Afghanistan to install a pro-Pakistan (and an anti-India) government in Kabul after the American and other international forces withdraw from Afghanistan.
(b) The Raymond Davis Affair: Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor, was arrested by Pakistan security forces after he killed two Pakistani men who he alleged were trying to rob him. Though he was released after blood money (compensation money in exchange of withdrawal of criminal case) was paid to the families of the victims, the case whipped up a frenzy against the U.S. across Pakistan.
The Pakistani government, under tremendous public pressure and trying to show some spine, asked the U.S. to withdraw all CIA contractors and other special operations forces from Pakistani territory. This action, coupled with Pakistan's selective against terror groups, rattled the Americans.
(c) OBL's Killing: Osama bin Laden was found and killed by the U.S. special forces in a mansion, close to Pakistan's main military academy. The world, especially the U.S., was rattled by the fact that the world's most wanted terrorist was living securely in one of Pakistan's most garrisoned towns. Since then, there have been allegations of Pakistani complicity - especially of the ISI or the military - in harboring OBL.
Says Bruce Reidel, an expert on South Asian affairs: "Not only is the U.S.-Pakistan relationship in a downward spiral, it doesn't look like there is any bottom in sight. It is hard to imagine things betting better and easy to imagine things getting worse. Foreign aid is never popular, and foreign aid for a country hiding enemy No. 1 is particularly unpopular."
Two days ago, Admiral Mike Mullen even alleged that Pakistan government was behind the recent killing of journalist Saleem Shahzad, who had reported on terrorist sympathisers in the Pakistani navy.
Now, Pakistan has hit back at the U.S. move to cut military aid. Putting on a brave face, a Pakistani military spokesman said that, "Pakistan does not need foreign aid for anti-terror operations. We conducted Swat and Waziristan operations without any aid."
Brave words but Pakistan would need more than brave words to stay afloat. In the days to come, we will see many anti-U.S. Pakistanis parroting 'Look, the Americans have shown their true colours. They are betrayers and would dispose of us like a condom once the act is finished!"
As for the Americans, they do not know if their gamble will pay off. OBL is dead but anti-American terror groups are rampant and are in fact, thriving.
Let us see who blinks first: the U.S. or Pakistan.
(You can access the full transcript of the Bill Daley interview on ABC News here.)