US resuming security assistance to Pakistan
22 October, 2013
WASHINGTON: The US State Department has asked Congress to resume more than $300 million in blocked security assistance to Pakistan, officials said Sunday amid an upswing in relations and a visit by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
"This is part of a long process of restarting security assistance cooperation after implementation was slowed during the bilateral challenges of 2011 and 2012," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told AFP.
The development came as Secretary of State John Kerry met with Nawaz, who is making his country's highest-level official visit to the United States in years. "We have a lot to talk about and the relationship with Pakistan could not be more important," Kerry said at the start of the meeting.
He called Pakistan a "democracy that is working hard to get its economy moving and deal with insurgency and also important to the regional stability." The State Department said the pair discussed counterterrorism cooperation, energy, trade and investment, and "the common interest in a secure and stable Afghanistan."
"Both sides agreed on the importance of our continued counterterrorism cooperation, and that extremism is countered in part by opportunities arising from greater economic stability," the State Department said. Nawaz was elected in May, and Washington has praised his efforts to reduce tensions in South Asia.
Relations with the United States have also improved since they plunged to one of their lowest points in 2011 after US commandos killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a raid in Pakistan and a US airstrike left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead. US security assistance was interrupted during that period, although $857 million in civilian assistance continued to flow, Harf said.
"As part of our annual funding process, throughout the course of this past summer the State Department notified Congress of how it planned to programme funds from several different accounts for various programs in Pakistan.
"Funding was notified to Congress following a rigorous planning process over multiple months, to ensure it was in line with both US and Pakistani interests, and would deliver important results for both countries," she said.