Civilian Aid To Pakistan Continues Despite Growing Tensions, U.S. Says

The United States is committed to "a strong, mutually respectful relationship with Pakistan" and will continue to provide civilian aid, the U.S. State Department said, despite tensions between the two nations.

Victoria Nuland

The United States is committed to "a strong, mutually respectful relationship with Pakistan" and will continue to provide civilian aid, the U.S. State Department said, despite tensions between the two nations.

Relations between the two countries have worsened since the U.S. airstrike in November killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the border with Afghanistan.

"Civilian assistance to Pakistan continues and has not been interrupted since the tragic November 26 incident," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement Friday in response to a question about aid.

"We consider bilateral U.S. civilian assistance to be an important component of that relationship and believe it can help Pakistan become a more prosperous, stable, and democratic state, which serves the national interests of both the United States and Pakistan."

The United States is a major provider of aid to Pakistan, and has doled out a total $2.2 billion in civilian assistance, including about $550 million in emergency humanitarian assistance, since October 2009.

About $855 million of that was in the 2011 fiscal year, not including emergency humanitarian aid, the statement said.

The question of aid has been a sticking point for some in Washington amid the growing tensions between the two countries.

The Pakistani government rejected a NATO report that blamed misunderstandings on both sides for the deadly border incident, and closed NATO supply routes across its borders to Afghanistan.

A parliamentary committee in Islamabad is currently examining ties with the United States.

Anti-American sentiment in Pakistan has also been fueled by anger over the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden at a compound in Pakistan last May, and continued American drone strikes on targets in the nation.

Despite the massive U.S. aid program, a poll by the Pew Research Center last June found that 68% of Pakistanis saw the United States more as an enemy, while only 6% considered it a friend.

Since 2002, the U.S. has given Pakistan approximately $18 billion in military, civilian and coalition support, Mark Stroh, a State Department official in Islamabad, told CNN.

The civilian aid is focused on five key areas, Nuland's office said: energy, economic growth, stabilization of the border regions, education and health.

"Notably, in 2011, the people of the United States supported the construction of 210 kilometers of road in FATA and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, funded the world's largest Fulbright exchange program, and sponsored initiatives promoting private sector growth and civil society development in Pakistan," it added.