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US aid to Pak faces cuts and strings

world Updated: Aug 05, 2011 23:49 IST

In 2009, Congress passed with fanfare a five-year, $7.5 billion aid plan intended to prove Washington's long-term commitment to Pakistan's weak civilian government.

Both countries touted the package as a way to reset relations long centered on military ties.

But two years later, only $500 million has been spent as the program has run into bureaucratic delays, disagreements over priorities and fears about corruption. Now the remainder of the funding is under scrutiny in the Republican-led House, where two panels have approved broad cuts in foreign aid and stringent conditions on assistance to a number of countries, including Pakistan.

Although the president Barack Obama administration is fighting the cuts, U.S. officials say they expect lawmakers to shrink the aid package while requiring greater evidence that Pakistan is fighting terrorism and that the funding is reaping benefits.

The debate over civilian aid has transformed it from a potential tool for healing the deep rift between the United States and Pakistan to yet another flash point in a relationship that has reached new lows in the three months since U.S. Navy SEALs killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.

Pakistanis decry slow pace
In Pakistan, the slow start for the aid program - and the likelihood that the total amount delivered will be less than originally pledged - is reinforcing impressions of the U.S as an unreliable ally, officials here said.

Many Pakistanis still resent the U.S. for cutting aid after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, and the Obama administration's recent decision to withhold $800 million in military aid and reimbursement is being cited as a new example of American fickleness.

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