Is it strategic to cut aid to Pakistan?

Washington suspends $800 million in annual military assistance to Pakistan. Will that encourage Islamabad to fight harder against terrorists?

Pakistani soldiers patrol the Afghanistan border this month
(Image credit: REUTERS/Stringer Pakistan)

The Obama administration is suspending or canceling hundreds of millions in military aid to Pakistan, hoping to get better cooperation in the fight against Islamist extremists. The decision came after Pakistan canceled visas for more than 100 U.S. Special Operations trainers working with the Frontier Corps, which helps police Pakistan's terrorist-infested tribal areas near the Afghan border. Will cutting off aid bring Pakistan in line, or just further aggravate tense U.S.-Pakistan relations?

This will only poison the relationship further: Yanking Pakistan's aid certainly won't "compel the military to fight harder against Taliban and al-Qaeda linked militants on its territory," say Chris Allbritton and Zeeshan Haider at Reuters. If anything, depriving Pakistan's military of training and equipment will make it more likely to negotiate with terrorists. That will only "drive the wedge between the troubled allies deeper," just as the U.S. raid to kill Osama bin Laden did.

"Analysis: Less U.S. military aid to Pakistan harms relations"

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Washington stands to lose more than Pakistan: Washington can't force Islamabad to be more cooperative, says Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., as quoted by the Associated Press. Assistance gives you influence, so yanking it will only discourage Pakistan's army from doing what the U.S. wants. In these hard economic times, this will sting, but it "hurts Washington more than it hurts Islamabad."

"In Pakistan, analysts say US aid cuts harm American efforts against al-Qaida, lessen US power"

Actually, this is a smart strategy: Pakistan has plenty of incentive to shape up, says Ryan Mauro at Front Page Magazine. The cuts amount to less than one-third of the $2.7 billion the U.S. gives Pakistan's military annually, so Islamabad still has a lot riding on this. It's about time we started playing hardball — if it weren't for Pakistan's support for terrorists, we would have caught up to bin Laden years ago. "This is not an ally worth our taxpayer dollars."

"U.S. hits Pakistan's wallet"

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