In Pakistan, many say aid ‘snub’ dims U.S. sway

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Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, a Pakistan army spokesman, said Sunday that the military had received no official notice from the U.S. that aid was being suspended. He also said that the loss of aid would have no effect on military operations against Islamist militants in the country because they were being conducted with Pakistan‘s own resources.

“I think it hurts Washington more than it hurts Islamabad,” said Ms. Lodhi. “Assistance is influence, and when you withhold it or suspend it, you deprive yourself of influence.”

Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani army chief, seemed to pre-empt the effect of the aid cut in a speech after the bin Laden raid — saying all U.S. military assistance now should be diverted to improve the country’s economy and help common Pakistanis.

“They want to end any impression that they are some kind of hired help,” Ms. Lodhi said.

Some analysts have predicted that the suspension of military aid could hurt the military’s war against the Pakistani Taliban over the long run, especially since the country is suffering an economic slump.

But Ayesha Siddiqa, a Pakistani defense analyst, said that Pakistan‘s close relationship with China could offset the impact. Pakistan long has purchased military equipment and missiles from China at lower cost and bought fighter aircraft from the country last year, she said.

The Pakistani military is “trying to go the Chinese way,” Ms. Siddiqa said.

It is unclear what other actions Pakistan will take in response to the suspension of U.S. military aid. It could be less helpful in targeting al-Qaida fighters within the country and in pushing Afghan Taliban militants with whom it has historical ties to negotiate an end to the Afghan war.

Pakistan is also believed to secretly support U.S. drone strikes against militants in the country’s mountainous tribal region. That support has been shaken in the wake of the bin Laden raid and could be further imperiled by the suspension of aid.

One of the most high-profile points of leverage that the Pakistanis have with the U.S. is the shipment of a large percentage of nonlethal supplies through the country to NATO troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan temporarily closed the border to NATO supplies last year after an accidental U.S. helicopter strike killed two Pakistani troops. It is unclear if the suspension of aid could provoke a similar response.

“When you take this kind of action, you reinforce the transactional nature of the relationship,” Ms. Lodhi said. “The moment you do that, all bets are off because the response will not be a very positive one.”

But Ms. Lodhi also noted that Pakistan and the United States do share common interests in combating terrorism and fostering a stable Afghanistan — even if the details don’t always match up.

“The common interest is there, but the question is: Can we walk back from the brink and find common ground to rebuild trust step by step?”

Associated Press writers Kathy Gannon in Islamabad and Ashraf Khan in Karachi, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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