UPDATE 3-US halts aid to Pakistani army units over abuses

* Pakistani army units accused of extrajudicial killings

* Disclosure comes as US announces $2 bln in military aid

* Pakistan has not acknowledged killings
(Adds Pakistani foreign minister comment)

By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON, Oct 22 (BestGrowthStock) – The United States has cut
off aid to Pakistani army units believed to have killed unarmed
prisoners, an extraordinary censure of a key U.S. ally in the
battle against the Taliban, U.S. officials said on Friday.

The officials said the cut-off was required under U.S. law,
which forbids funding of foreign military units that are
singled out for gross human rights violations. They would not
say how many units were affected.

“It’s a relatively small number. That’s all I can say,”
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters, adding
he was constrained because the issue dealt with legal and
intelligence matters.

The disclosure came the same day the United States
announced $2 billion in military aid for Pakistan. Top
Pakistani officials, including from the military, were also in
Washington for bilateral talks. [ID:nN22173670]

Human Rights Watch, which briefed U.S. and congressional
officials earlier this year about evidence of more than 200
summary executions of suspected Taliban sympathizers, praised
the U.S. action.

“What they showed today is that the United States can
simultaneously step up support for Pakistan while restricting
assistance to those (abusive) elements of the Pakistani
military,” said Tom Malinowski, Human Rights Watch’s Washington
director.

U.S. officials acknowledged it can be difficult to prevent
aid from trickling down to foreign military units singled out
for abuse, but point to examples where the law has been
successfully enforced in Colombia, Indonesia and elsewhere.

“Because we have a system of vetting units, we can have
confidence that for those units that we are supporting, we have
vetted them properly,” Crowley said.

VIDEO OF KILLINGS

The United States is seeking more aggressive action by
Pakistan in the fight against al Qaeda and other Islamist
extremist groups along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

U.S. officials have pressed Pakistan for tougher steps
against safe havens in North Waziristan, saying in a recent
report to Congress that Pakistani forces had avoided direct
contact with al Qaeda and related militants.

At the same time, U.S. officials have repeatedly raised
questions with Islamabad about rights abuses and the way it
conducts its fight against militants.

Last month, the United States asked Pakistan for
information about an Internet video purporting to show
Pakistani troops, lined up in a firing squad, shooting bound
and blindfolded young men in traditional clothing.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, speaking in
Washington, said that issue was being dealt with.

“Investigation has been ordered by a very senior officer of
the Pakistan army and I can assure you that there will be zero
tolerance against human rights violations,” Qureshi told
reporters. “If there is action required, the government of
Pakistan will take action.

Senator Patrick Leahy, who wrote the law that triggered the
cut-off of U.S. assistance, said reports of extrajudicial
killings by the Pakistani government would be a factor when
Congress reviews future U.S. aid requests.

He also noted that Pakistani officials had yet to
acknowledge extra-judicial killings or punish those
responsible.

“If there is going to be progress against al Qaeda, we need
the support of the Pakistani army,” said Leahy, who did not
comment on the U.S. cut-off in aid to certain Pakistani units.

“But there is a lot of concern with extrajudicial killings
… this will be a factor when we consider a request for more
aid, because respect for our law and the laws of war is
fundamental.”
(Additional reporting by Andrew Quinn; Editing by Will Dunham
and Peter Cooney)

UPDATE 3-US halts aid to Pakistani army units over abuses