Report: US to release $1.6B in aid to Pakistan

The Obama administration is quietly releasing more than $1.6 billion in frozen military and financial assistance to Pakistan, ahead of the prime minister’s visit to the White House this week.

The Associated Press reported on Saturday that Congress has given the green light to dispersing most of the money, which should start moving in early 2014.

The aid was stalled while the two countries’ relationship soured in the wake of the 2011 military raid that killed Osama bin Laden and NATO air strikes that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers later that year.

On Wednesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will meet with President Obama and Vice President Biden at the White House.

“The meeting will highlight the importance and resilience of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship and provide an opportunity for us to strengthen cooperation on issues of mutual concern, such as energy, trade and economic development, regional stability, and countering violent extremism,” the White House said in a description of the meeting.

The White House added that discussions will focus “on ways we can advance our shared interest of a stable, secure, and prosperous Pakistan.”

According to the AP report, the State Department began meeting with lawmakers in July and August to inform them of its plans to restart assistance. Those officials, it said, said that broader cooperation from Pakistan led to the resumption of aid, rather than any specific event.

American critics of the aid have been concerned about Pakistan’s willingness to assist the U.S. in the fight against terrorist groups.

Obama will try to convince Pakistani leaders to play a supportive role in neighboring Afghanistan once American troops begin to pull out of the country after 2014.

The peace process in Afghanistan will likely be a major topic of conversation between the two leaders this week.

A Pakistani government spokesman told Agence France-Presse that the prime minister would use the trip to raise the issue of drone strikes, which are incredibly unpopular in Pakistan and a major source of tension. 

The Obama administration has relied on the strikes to target suspected al Qaeda and Taliban militants in tribal areas of Pakistan.