Pakistan-U.S. rift deepens over military aid

Pakistani soldier
A Pakistani army soldier takes a position during an operation against militants in the Khurram tribal region July 10, 2011.
AP Photo

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's top army commanders on Tuesday appeared to reject U.S. military assistance for the ongoing fight against militants of the Taliban and al Qaeda in the country's region along the Afghan border, a gesture which will likely add to the existing strain in ties with Washington.

The commanders met for the first time with Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan's army chief of staff, since the Obama administration announced cutting up to $800 million in planned military assistance for the nation.

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The proposed cuts apparently include $300 million dedicated to fund Pakistan's ongoing fight against militants in the border region. Known as coalition support funds, the money has been dedicated since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks as a way to reimburse Pakistan for the costs it incurred on operations against Islamic militants.

U.S. officials have said the decision reported during the weekend was prompted by Pakistan ordering U.S. military trainers to leave the country following the May 2 raid by U.S. Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden in the northern city of Abbottabad. Pakistan protested Washington's decision to inform the country only after the operation was carried out.

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On Tuesday, the Pakistan army issued a statement following the meeting at the army's general headquarters in Rawalpindi, a suburb of the capital city of Islamabad.

"The Forum (of the army's commanders) reiterated the resolve to fight the menace of terrorism in our own national interest using our own resources," the statement read.

A Pakistan government official, who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity, said, "There is a resolve that we simply don't need U.S. aid, which comes with strings. The U.S. decision to scale back military assistance is just not acceptable. We will carry on our fight ourselves, without begging the U.S. for money."

Western defense officials based in Islamabad, responding to the announcement, warned that the army's response may further complicate Pakistan's relations with the United States at a time when Washington needs Pakistan's support as it plans to scale down its troop presence in neighboring Afghanistan.

"For the U.S., relations with Pakistan are becoming more and more complicated by the day," said one European defense official in Islamabad, who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity. "The U.S. is rightfully frustrated with Pakistan. But if this relationship gets further spoilt and there is a long term deadlock, it will be very difficult to revive."

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