At odds with Islamabad, Obama cuts financial aid

At odds with Islamabad, Obama cuts financial aid

At odds with Islamabad, Obama cuts financial aid

US President Barack Obama (L) speaks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai (C) and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari at NATO’s Chicago summit. AFP photo

A U.S. Senate panel voted to approve cuts in foreign aid to Pakistan on May 22, and threatened to withhold even more cash if Islamabad does not reopen its supply routes to NATO soldiers in Afghanistan, reflecting American frustration with a months-long standoff.

The action by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Aid followed a weekend NATO summit in Chicago at which Washington had hoped to reach a deal with Islamabad to end the supply line dispute. U.S. President Barack Obama snubbed Pakistan at the summit, only seeing President Asif Ali Zardari in passing and voicing frustration with Pakistan.

Turkey played a role in mediating between Pakistan and the U.S. to secure Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s participation at the Chicago summit.

Pakistan closed the supply routes through its territory to Afghanistan in protest when U.S. aircraft killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan border last November. The Senate panel voted to cut aid to Pakistan by 58 percent in fiscal year 2013 in response toa request from the Obama administration, the panel’s Democrat chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy, said.

Drone strike adds to tension
The senators voted to provide $1 billion for Pakistan, including $800 million in foreign aid. However, funding for the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund was limited to just $50 million, and that money was tied to the supply lines’ reopening, said Senator Lindsey Graham, the panel’s top Republican.

“We’re not going to be giving money to an ally that won’t be an ally,” Graham told reporters. The panel’s spending blueprint must still be approved by the full Senate and the House of Representatives before it can become law. As tension remains high, U.S. missiles killed four militants at a Taliban stronghold in Pakistan yesterday, officials said.

A drone targeted a compound near Miranshah, the main town of a tribal district where Pakistan has resisted U.S. pressure to launch a sweeping offensive against militants fighting U.S. troops in neighboring Afghanistan. The area is a stronghold of the Haqqani network -- Afghan insurgents blamed for a series of spectacular attacks on Western targets in Kabul -- and Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud.

U.S. officials have accused Pakistani intelligence agents of playing a double game by supporting or at least turning a blind eye to Afghan insurgents. Pakistan says the missile attacks are counterproductive, violate its sovereignty, kill civilians and fuel anti-U.S. sentiment.

Compiled from Reuters and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.