WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration's decision to suspend $800 million in aid to Pakistan's military signals a tougher U.S. line with a critical but sometimes unreliable partner in the fight against terrorism.
President Barack Obama's chief of staff, William Daley, said in a broadcast interview yesterday that the estranged relationship between the United States and Pakistan must be made "to work over time" but, until it does, "we'll hold back some of the money that the American taxpayers are committed to give" to the country's powerful military forces.
The suspension of U.S. aid, first reported by The New York Times, followed a statement last week by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, that Pakistan's security services may have sanctioned the killing of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad, who wrote about infiltration of the military by extremists. His battered body was found in June.
The allegation was rejected by Pakistan's powerful military establishment, including the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, which has historic ties to the Taliban and other militant groups and which many Western analysts regard as a state-within-a-state.
George Perkovich, an expert on Pakistan with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said Mullen's comments and the suspension of aid represent "the end of happy talk," a reference to U.S. efforts to paper over differences between the two nations.
Daley, interviewed on ABC's "This Week," suggested the decision to suspend military aid resulted from the increasing estrangement. "Obviously there's still a lot of pain that the political system in Pakistan is feeling by virtue of the raid that we did to get Osama bin Laden," Daley said. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters on Saturday that the U.S. would continue to press Pakistan in the fight against extremists.