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U.S. Unveils New Package Of Military Aid To Pakistan

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Mahmood Qureshi held talks at the State Department on October 22.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Mahmood Qureshi held talks at the State Department on October 22.

WASHINGTON -- The United States has announced a five year, $2 billion military aid package for Pakistan as part of its campaign to enlist Islamabad's full support in the fight against extremists on its own soil and in neighboring Afghanistan.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the announcement alongside Pakistani Foreign Minister Mahmood Shah Qureshi, who is in Washington with a delegation of government ministers for the third round of U.S.-Pakistan strategic partnership talks.

"I am pleased to announce our multi-year security assistance commitment to Pakistan. We will request $2 billion in foreign military assistance from Congress for 2012 through 2016," Clinton said. "This will complement the $7.5 billion in civilian projects that has already been approved in the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation."

Long Term Partners

The new aid package, which must be approved by Congress, is addition to a $7.5 billion package of civilian aid that was approved by Congress before this summer's devastating floods in Pakistan. Some of that money has been diverted to help recovery efforts, and the United States has since sent an additional $390 million in relief and recovery aid.

U.S. officials are keen to reassure Pakistan that it can rely on Washington as a long-term development partner, beyond the planned beginning of troop withdrawals next summer from Afghanistan.

Clinton also made a point of addressing doubts in Washington that Islamabad is a reliable partner in the fight against extremists. "The United States has no stronger partner when it comes to counter-terrorism efforts the extremists who threaten us both than Pakistan," she said.

"We recognize and appreciate the sacrifice and service that the men and women, particularly the soldiers of the military in Pakistan, have made in order to restore order and go after those who threaten the very institutions of the state of Pakistan," Clinton added.

Qureshi said his country appreciates the aid but didn't hide his annoyance that Pakistan's commitment to defeating extremists is still being questioned. He said some 30,000 Pakistani civilians have lost their lives in the battle against terrorism thus far.

"It unfortunately seems easy to dismiss Pakistan's contributions and sacrifices. There are still tongue-in-cheek comments, even in this capital, about Pakistan's heart not really being in this fight. We do not know what greater evidence to offer than the blood of our people," he said.

The foreign minister told Clinton that Pakistan is "determined to win this fight," adding that his country would prove that it would "not allow any space for terrorists on its territory."

A 'Blueprint For Cooperation'

The announcement of new military aid comes as the White House said it plans to cut off aid to certain Pakistani military units suspected of committing human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and torture. A U.S. law known as the Leahy Amendment prohibits military assistance to foreign armed forces suspected of committing atrocities.

This week's talks in Washington took place as the two countries are trying to repair tensions over NATO military incursions across the border with Afghanistan, stepped up drone attacks, and allegations that Islamabad is not doing enough to target Taliban militants.

The deaths of two Pakistani border guards by NATO helicopters led Islamabad to temporarily close a NATO border crossing point in retaliation. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates apologized for the second time for the incident to Pakistani army General Ashfaq Kayani earlier this week.

Clinton said that the 13 working groups of Pakistani government ministers and their U.S. counterparts that met this week had forged what she called "a blueprint for cooperation" between the two countries. Among the agreements are a plan to immunize 90 percent of Pakistani children against disease, improve the reliability of electricity supply, and distribute seeds to help farmers recover from the floods. Water experts from Pakistani provinces will also visit New Orleans on October 23 to study how the city recovered from Hurricane Katrina.

Clinton said the United States would continue to stand by the Pakistani people. "We are accelerating our efforts to help provide cash to people whose houses have been destroyed [by floods] so they can quickly rebuild," she said. "And this morning, I want to send a special message to the people of Pakistan. We have stood with you and we will keep standing with you, to help you not just cope with the aftermath of the floods, but to get back on the path to prosperity."

President Barack Obama has announced that he plans to visit Pakistan next year in what will be the first visit of his presidency.

written by Heather Maher with agency reports