By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 5, 2007 - U.S.-Pakistani military cooperation along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan is continuing unfettered despite the crisis that's led to widespread arrests in Pakistan and has U.S. officials reviewing assistance programs to Pakistan, a senior defense official told reporters today. All U.S. assistance will be on the table as the United States reviews its support in light of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's declaration of a state of emergency and suspension of its democratic government, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said today.
The move, announced Nov. 2, has drawn severe U.S. criticism, with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates joining Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in calling for a quick resolution and a return to a law-based, constitutional and democratic government.
The crisis is particularly troubling to the United States because Pakistan is a key ally in the war on terror, particularly in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. "So it is important to have a favorable resolution of this situation," Whitman said today.
As Pakistan has proven itself a valued ally in the fight against terrorism, it's received extensive financial support for its efforts from the United States. All that stands to come under review in light of the current situation. "Secretary Rice has made it pretty clear that we will review all our military assistance," Whitman said.
Gates told reporters traveling with him in China today that the United States is watching the developing situation in Pakistan closely and plans to review the full spectrum of assistance programs.
Defense officials estimate that figure at about $9.6 billion since 2001. That includes about $300 million a year for foreign military financing; more than $10 million a year for nonproliferation, antiterrorism, demining and related programs; about $25.5 million in international narcotics control and law enforcement funding -- a figure that could increase to $32 million in fiscal 2008 if Congress approves the request; and about $2 million a year in International Military Education and Training funds, Whitman said.
The review also could address the $80 million a month -- a total of about $5.3 billion since the war began -- in reimbursements to the Pakistani government through coalition support funds. These funds reimburse coalition partners for expenses involved in conducting joint operations against al Qaeda, manning observation posts along the Afghan border, providing humanitarian assistance to tribal populations, conducting interdiction operations, combat air patrols and other support missions, Whitman explained.
These programs all are funded through the State Department's foreign operations budget.
Also subject to scrutiny in the review is the extensive U.S. foreign military sales program with Pakistan, which includes sales of F-16 and P-3 aircraft. The U.S. Congress last year approved a deal to sell 36 F-16 aircraft to Pakistan. Whitman said half of those aircraft are new models, and half older models sold as "excess defense articles."
In a related move, the United States announced that it will postpone a bilateral defense consultative meeting with Pakistan that had been scheduled for tomorrow Nov. 7. Whitman said the current situation in Pakistan would make it too difficult for participants to focus fully on the issues at hand. Those meetings are expected to be rescheduled.