Pentagon deferring arms for Pakistan

The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon has rejected or deferred millions of dollars in military aid requests from Pakistan amid criticism that Islamabad has squandered U.S. funding and allowed al-Qaida to re-create a haven in its western tribal regions.

In February, the Defense Department turned down or delayed more than $81 million requested by Pakistan, according to a report issued yesterday by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

The rejection represents a small portion of nearly $1 billion a year that Pakistan has received through a post-Sept. 11 program called Coalition Support Funds. But it marks a change in U.S. policy, which for years allowed Pakistan to spend military aid without having to show results in the fight against al-Qaida and other militant groups. Pentagon officials have acknowledged shortcomings in U.S. funding strategy.

The program was set up to reimburse the Pakistani military for offensives taken against insurgents along the Afghan border and assistance given to the U.S. military operating in Afghanistan.

The GAO said the United States has sent more than $5.5 billion to Pakistan under the program, making it the largest portion of $10.8 billion in U.S. aid that Islamabad has received since 2002.

The GAO study was the second in a month to criticize U.S. policy in Pakistan. In April, the agency said the Bush administration has not drafted a comprehensive plan to counter the resurgence of al-Qaida and other groups.

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