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(Adds details of American aid in third paragraph.)
June 10 (Bloomberg) -- Pakistan’s army chief advocated diverting U.S. military aid to support the economy, taking note of the public criticism the military has faced since U.S. commandos killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the country.
Economic aid is “more essential for Pakistan,” General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said, according to a military statement issued yesterday. “It is being recommended to the government that the U.S. funds meant for military assistance to the army be diverted toward economic aid to Pakistan.”
Total U.S. aid and military reimbursements to Pakistan amounted to $4.3 billion in fiscal year 2010, according to the Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan research group that serves lawmakers. Since bin Laden’s killing U.S. lawmakers have questioned Pakistan’s commitment to fighting militants and have said that further aid should be tied to actions against al- Qaeda and the Taliban.
In comments to a meeting of top commanders in the army headquarters in Rawalpindi, Kayani also criticized continuing U.S. drone attacks, according to a statement from the military’s Inter Services Public Relations. He said the army is “under no pressure” to move against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in the North Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan.
Kayani said he will not allow the U.S. to conduct independent espionage operations on its soil. Pakistan has “drastically” cut the number of U.S. troops in Pakistan and ended joint training activities, he said.
“As far as the drone attacks are concerned, the Army has repeatedly conveyed to all concerned that these are not acceptable under any circumstance,” he said.
Kayani did urge Pakistanis in the border region to “evict all foreigners” -- a reference to al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban - - since it is “wrong, in principle, to allow others to use our land for fighting their battles.”
The statement from Pakistan’s generals came after unusually sharp criticism from politicians and the media following the army’s failure to detect the U.S. commando raid that killed bin Laden and to prevent the 16-hour assault last month by Taliban militants on a navy base in the country’s most populous city, Karachi.
The military statement cited “blowback” from the U.S. raid that has led to an increase in terrorism. The commanders decried Pakistanis who are “trying to deliberately run down the armed forces and the army in particular,” the statement said.
Tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan have risen following the discovery of bin Laden in Abbottabad, a town about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of the capital, Islamabad, that is the site of the nation’s most prestigious military academy and home to many retired military officers.
Kayani gave what he said was an accounting of U.S. aid to show how little of the so-called coalition support funds -- money intended to reimburse countries for help in fighting terrorists -- has gone to the military.
Of the “often quoted figure” of $13 billion in coalition support funds during the past 10 years, Pakistan has received $8.6 billion, he said. Of that, no more than $2.6 billion has gone to the military, mostly the army, he said. The remaining $6 billion has gone to general economic support, “which ultimately means the people of Pakistan,” he said.
--Editors: Mark Williams, Paul Tighe
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