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#3445, 1 September 2011
Cutbacks in US Military Aid to Pakistan: A Print Media Survey
Poonam Khatana
Research Intern, IPCS
email: punakhatana@gmail.com

The Obama administration held back $80 million (one-third of the sanctioned $2 billion) in security aid in a show of displeasure over Pakistan’s cutback of US military trainers, limits on visa for US personnel and other bilateral irritants. In response to this move, Pakistan’s print media analyzed some pertinent questions: Is Pakistan capable of fighting without US assistance? How has the Pakistani military reacted? What will be its impact on US-Pakistan ties? What is the Indian response?

Dawn reported that the Pakistani military expressed its capability to fight without American assistance. According to Dawn, Major General Athar Abbas wrote to the AFP saying that the Pakistani army has in the past conducted successful military operations without any external support. Additionally Pakistan has its all-weather friend China's help. Daily Times shared a similar opinion in its editorial (Mending Pak-US relations, 14 July 2011). It acknowledges China’s role in an adverse time. Apart from military assistance, China may increase aid to Pakistan in view of aid suspension by the US.

Regarding the reaction of the Pakistani army, Dawn carried an editorial (Army responds coolly to aid suspension, Baqir Sajjad Syed, 12 July 2011) where it stated that the Pakistani army would cooperate with the US against terrorism despite this cut in security assistance. Significantly, there would be no cut in civil assistance to Pakistan from the US, according to Daily Times.

Contrastingly, The Express Tribune in an editorial (Corps Commander’s meeting: Army shrugs off ‘punitive’ aid cut-off by US, Kamran Yousaf, 13 July 2011) expressed the army’s anger at such a move by the US. The Pakistani army will not reverse its decision to expel US military trainers and scale back the activities of the CIA operatives in the country despite this suspension. The corps commanders said that this move was inimical to the anti-terrorism campaign and to the Pak-US fight against terrorism.

Dawn in its report (Pakistan could “pull troops from Afghan border” if US cuts aid, 12 July 2011) stated that Pakistan could pull back troops fighting militants near the Afghan border if the US suspended aid. According to Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, Pakistan was demanding its own money for maintaining the army in tribal areas, as reported by The New York Times. Since the Coalition Support Fund is not aid, but reimbursements for money that has already spent on military operations, a cut-back in aid would not only hurt the military but also strain the country's economy, as suggested by Dawn.

On US-Pak ties, Former President Pervez Musharraf opined in The Express Tribune (Suspending military aid: Musharraf laments strained Pak-US ties, 11 July 2011) that the cut in aid could hamper the Pakistani army’s anti-terrorism efforts.Supporting this view was an editorial in Dawn (Less US military aid to Pakistan relations, not army, 11 July 20011) Mehmood Durrani said that Pakistan was fighting America’s war, and Washington must pay for it. According to Ayesha Siddqa, the decrease in training, spare parts and specialized equipment might push the Pakistani military to negotiate with extremist groups rather than fight them, as quoted in Dawn.

Daily Times published an editorial (Security environment remains tense, Ikramullah, 18 July 2011) which insisted that the American administration should declare an unconditional restoration of aid. Pakistan's army’s will not accept aid with strings attached. In the opinion of the Pakistani Army Chief Kayani, Pakistan has suffered the most damage in the ongoing war on terror; both in monetary value as well as in humancasualties as compared to its allies, and the US should appreciate its efforts.

India supports the US decision to suspend $800 million worth of military aid to Pakistan, reported The Express Tribune in an editorial (India welcomes US suspending Military aid to Pakistan, 11 July 20011).External Affairs Minister SM Krishna suggested that a heavily armed Pakistan upsets the equilibrium in the region.

An editorial in The Nation (Dollars, drones and development, Jalees Hazir, 17 July 2011) reiterated the need for the US and Pakistan to reconcile their conflicting positions. Pakistan is indispensable to US operations in Afghanistan, and Pakistan needs the US for sponsoring its civilian government and military operations.

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