US to hold back $800 mln in aid to Pakistan: report

WASHINGTON Sat Jul 9, 2011 8:59pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration will hold back about $800 million in aid to the Pakistani military because Washington is unhappy with Pakistan's expulsion of U.S. military trainers and its campaign against militants, the New York Times reported Saturday.

Relations between the two governments have been strained with the United States wanting Pakistan to intensify its counterterrorism efforts. The relationship also has been tense due to the surprise U.S. raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on May 2, U.S. drone attacks that have killed civilians and a raft of other issues.

The Times, citing three U.S. senior officials, said the United States was suspending or canceling $800 million in aid and equipment -- more than a third of the $2 billion it gives Pakistan for security assistance.

About $300 million in U.S. funding is to reimburse Pakistan for deploying more than 100,000 troops along the Afghan border to combat Taliban and other militant forces. Other funding covers training and military hardware, Times sources said.

U.S. officials told the newspaper the aid and equipment could be resumed if relations improve and Pakistan takes more action against militants.

Pakistan has shut down a U.S. program that had been training paramilitary forces, sending home more than 100 U.S. trainers in recent weeks, and has threatened to close the base the CIA has been using for drone plane attacks on militant targets.

The Times said in private briefings with congressional staffers last month that Pentagon officials said they would be taking a stronger stance toward Pakistan.

"They wanted to tell us, 'Guys, we're delivering the message that this is not business as usual and we've got this under control,'" one senior Senate aide told the newspaper.

In May a U.S. Navy SEAL team raided a compound where bin Laden was living in a Abbottabad, near Pakistan's military academy, raising questions about whether Pakistani officials had helped hide him. Pakistan complained it had not been told in advance about the raid.

Last week Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, accused Pakistan of kidnapping and killing a journalist.

The U.S.-Pakistan relationship also was damaged last year after a CIA contractor in Lahore killed two Pakistanis he said were trying to rob him.

(Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by Christopher Wilson)

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