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US to continue civilian aid to Pak despite uneasy relationship

world Updated: Nov 05, 2011 00:01 IST
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday said the generous civilian aid to Pakistan would continue despite the uneasy relationship with Islamabad as disengagement with it is not an option for the US.

"As our commanders on the ground will attest, it is critical to our broader strategy that civilian assistance continue in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Disengaging now would undermine our military and political efforts and the national security interests of the US," she said in remarks accompanying a status report on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"The civilian surge in Afghanistan and Pakistan that President (Barack) Obama launched in 2009 to accompany the military surge in Afghanistan has helped advance our goals of defeating al Qaeda, reversing Taliban's momentum in key areas, and bolstering the economy and civil society of both countries," she said.

"As US troops begin a phased drawdown in Afghanistan as part of the larger plan for transition, our civilian initiatives in both Afghanistan and Pakistan are assuming new importance," she said.

The 23-page 'Status Report: Afghanistan and Pakistan Civilian Engagement' that was submitted to the Congress on Thursday provides a thorough review of US civilian efforts, identifies significant challenges and areas of progress, and outlines the way forward.

In its report, the State Department acknowledges that America's relationship with Pakistan is not always easy, but it is vital to its national security and regional interests.

The US will continue to provide civilian aid to Pakistan, which has come down from $1.5 billion in the 2010 fiscal year to $1.1 billion this year.

"We have many shared interests, and it is important we continue to find a way to act on them jointly. Ultimately it is up to the Pakistani people and their civilian-led government to chart a positive course for Pakistan's future," the report said.

"But it is also clearly in the national interest of the United States to help build a self-sufficient Pakistan, governed by democratic and civilian-led institutions able to provide jobs and opportunities, ensure human rights for its people, and contribute to stability in the region through sound economic and political relations with its neighbors. This is the most effective way to combat extremism," it said.

It said the US plans to focus more on programs that will stimulate economic growth through infrastructure development, enterprise development, increased agriculture productivity, and policy reform that stimulates private investment.

"Our focus will remain on visible infrastructure that helps build the foundation for economic growth, and capacity building of the Pakistani government and other institutions, which are key to strengthening Pakistan's democracy, governance, and long-term stability," the report said.

"The US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue will continue, as will our efforts to foster increased regional and international economic linkages. In the energy working group, we continue to work with Pakistani counterparts to make progress in reforming the energy sector to help improve economic viability," the +-report said.