US renews bonds with Pak Army by pledging 2bn-dollar military aid

Washington, Oct 24 (ANI): While the US administration has repeatedly pledged support for civilian rule in Pakistan, the two million-dollar military aid pledge at the latest round of the US-Pak strategic dialogue shows that it is also keen to meet the wish-lists of the army, which has long been a major player in Pakistan and provides vital logistical support for forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan's Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani was unusually public last year in his criticism of Washington's five-year, 7.5 billion-dollar civilian aid package, calling it undue foreign interference, the Dawn reported.

Last Friday, in the wake of the latest tensions between the war partners, US President Barack Obama's administration announced it would seek another two billion dollars in aid for Pakistan- this time destined for the military.

Teresita Schaffer, a former US diplomat who had served in Islamabad, said the US faced the problem of doing a balancing act between working with the military and supporting civilian institutions.

"The US routinely has trouble figuring out exactly where that line belongs and how to stay on the right side of things," said Schaffer, Director of the South Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"Partly that's because the military in Pakistan is a can-do institution, much more so than the civilians," she said, adding, "This is partly theatrics, but we as a people are magnetically drawn to an institution and a leader who says, 'Yeah, I can help you with what you really want to get done.'"

The US Congress needs Congressional approval on the two billion-dollar military aid, which would be spread over five years.

While the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act won wide backing last year, some US lawmakers have since voiced impatience at what they perceive as ingratitude from Pakistan. Other lawmakers have accused it of being too cozy with Afghanistan's Taliban, and faulted Islamabad's strategic focus on rival India, the paper said.

Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and former US policymaker on South Asia, said a more critical test for military assistance to Pakistan might come next year.

"We are entering a somewhat new phase in US military assistance to Pakistan when for the first time we're actually seeing the aid conditioned on Pakistan meeting benchmarks," Curtis said. (ANI)

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