US to provide more military aid to Pakistan: Report

US to provide more military aid to Pakistan: Report
Washington: The US will provide Pakistan with more military, intelligence and economic aid, even though top officials of the Obama administration feel that the country is not doing enough to crack down on terror havens in its tribal belt.

US Vice President Joseph Biden will deliver the message outlining the new aid package when he visits Pakistan next week, The 'Washington Post' reported on Saturday.

Biden's visit, the paper said, is considered significant as Washington feels frustrated over delay by Pakistan army in mounting operations in North Waziristan, the area which American security agencies feel is hotbed of Al-Qaida, Taliban, Haqqani network and other radical Islamic groups confronting NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The vice-president, during his visit, is expected to meet the powerful Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and top government leaders.

"Biden will challenge the Pakistanis to articulate their long term strategy for the region and indicate exactly what assistance is needed for them to move against Taliban sanctuaries in areas bordering Afghanistan," the Post said.

US aid to Pakistan is projected to total more than US $3 billion by 2011, though Islamabad had been complaining that Washington is slow on request for military equipment including helicopter gunships.

Washington Post did not outline what further US arms assistance to Pakistan would be. Besides, helicopter Americans have been supplying night fighting equipment as well as intelligence tools.

The decision to double down on Pakistan represents the administration's attempt to call the bluff of Pakistani officials who have long complained that the United States has failed to understand their security priorities or provide adequate support.

The strategy, determined in last month's White House Afghanistan war review, amounts to an intensifying of existing efforts to overcome widespread suspicion and anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, and build trust and stability, the Post said.

US President Barack Obama and his top national security aides rejected proposals, made by some military commanders and intelligence officials who have lost patience with Pakistan, to allow US ground forces to conduct targeted raids against insurgent safe havens, officials said.

They concluded that the United States can ill afford to threaten or further alienate a precarious, nuclear-armed country whose cooperation is essential to the administration on several fronts.

The plan to boost up military, intelligence and economic support to Pakistan was also decided at the review of the Afghan situation where plans were cleared to intensify efforts to forge a regional peace.

On widening intelligence cooperation, the Post said that the US was proposing to establish new outposts on the Afghan side of the border with Pakistan to stop insurgent infiltration and press Islamabad to allow US and Afghan officials to staff border coordination centres inside Pakistan.

The intelligence cooperation, the paper said, was part of efforts to build political, trade and security links between Pakistan and Afghanistan as a way of assuaging Pakistan's fear that India is building influence in Afghanistan.

The US is also planning to redouble efforts to look for political approaches to end the war, including a recognition that Pakistan "must play an important role in reconciliation talks with the Taliban.

The Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari is scheduled to visit Washington to attend the memorial of Richard Holbrooke on January 14.

The Pakistanis "understand that Afghanistan-Pakistan has become the single most important foreign policy issue to the United States, and their cachet has gone up, the newspaper said based on its conversation with various administration official.

"But they also realise that they may have reached the point of maximum leverage, this official said, "and things about their region are going to change one way or the other" in the near future, as Congress and the American public grow increasingly disillusioned with the war and a timeline for military withdrawal is set.

"Something is going to give," he said. "There is going to be an end-game scenario and they're trying to guess where we're heading."