The United States is resuming frozen security and economic assistance to Pakistan in a sign relations between the two countries are somewhat improved following a 2011 falling-out, Reuters reported on Sunday.
Washington froze hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to Pakistan's military in summer 2011 in an attempt to convince Islamabad to do more to combat local extremist groups. The quiet release by the Obama administration of $1.6 billion in security and economic aid to Pakistan that had previously been appropriated but not dispersed comes shortly ahead of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's scheduled Wednesday meeting at the White House with President Obama.
The Obama administration has sought approximately $1.2 billion in fiscal 2014 foreign assistance to Pakistan, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. Congress has yet to pass a fiscal 2014 budget. Most of the military aid is aimed at improving the Pakistani armed forces' ability to suppress extremist organizations in the tribal lands.
"While this is part of a long process of restarting security assistance cooperation after implementation was slowed during the bilateral challenges of 2011 and 2012, civilian assistance has continued uninterrupted throughout," Harf wrote in an e-mail to Reuters.
Though financial assistance has been resumed, there are still significant areas of discord between Washington and Islamabad, including U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan. The security relationship between the two nations is a complicated one. The United States has long been frustrated with Pakistan's intelligence services' widely believed support of local extremist groups that carry out terror attacks in India and on NATO forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan, for its part, resents when the United States acts unilaterally inside its territory such as in the May 2011 commando incursion on Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad compound and the January 2011 killings of two Pakistani civilians in Lahore by CIA contractor Raymond Davis.
The United States has maintained a security relationship with Pakistan amid U.S. concerns about the security of the South Asian state's nuclear arsenal. Successive U.S. administrations have repeatedly said they have faith in the Pakistani army's ability to safeguard its nuclear weapons. However, recent intelligence leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden have revealed that U.S. surveillance of Pakistan's nuclear, chemical, and biological facilities has been ramped up.