US to resume aid to Pakistan

Announcement comes days before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is scheduled to visit Washington for high-level talks

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, left, shakes hands with Secretary of State John Kerry, Aug. 1, 2013.
Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. announced Saturday that it planned to release more than $1.6 billion in military and economic aid to Pakistan that was suspended more than two years ago when relations between the two countries soured over the covert raid that killed Osama bin Laden and U.S. airstrikes that killed numerous Pakistani soldiers.

The announcement comes days before Pakistan's new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, is scheduled to arrive in Washington for White House talks this week.

Congress has already cleared most of the money, which should start moving early next year, officials and congressional aides said, but neither Pakistan nor U.S. officials have touted the new round of aid.

"Funding was notified to Congress following a rigorous planning process over multiple months, to ensure it was in line with both U.S. and Pakistani interests, and would deliver important results for both countries," Marie Harf, deputy spokesman for the State Department, said on Saturday.

Over three weeks in July and August, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development informed Congress that it planned to restart a wide range of assistance, mostly dedicated to helping Pakistan fight terrorism. The U.S. sees that effort as essential as it withdraws troops from neighboring Afghanistan next year and tries to leave a stable government behind.

Other funds in the package focus on a range of items, including help for Pakistani law enforcement and a multibillion-dollar dam in disputed territory.

The funds come at a time of eased tensions between Pakistan and the U.S. — American and NATO supply routes to Afghanistan are open and Controversial U.S. drone strikes are down.

U.S.-Pakistani relations have weathered numerous crises in recent years, from a months-long legal battle over a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistanis, to the fallout from bin Laden's killing in the Pakistani military town of Abbottabad in May 2011. The Pakistani government was outraged that it received no advance warning of the Navy SEAL raid on bin Laden's compound.

Adding to the mistrust, the U.S. mistakenly killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers in November 2011. Islamabad responded by shutting land supply routes for troops in Afghanistan until it received a U.S. apology seven months later.

The countries say they're now moving past the incidents that soured their partnership. During an August trip to Pakistan, Secretary of State John Kerry announced the restart of a high-level "strategic dialogue" with Pakistan on fighting terrorism, controlling borders and fostering investment.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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