Fur­ther U.S. aid to Pak­istan be­ing ques­tioned

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Sev­eral lawmakers said May 3 that it is time to re­think U.S. aid to Pak­istan in light of rev­e­la­tions that Osama bin Laden spent the past six years squir­reled away in a safe house a mere foot­ball field away from one of coun­try’s top mil­i­tary academies and miles from the cap­i­tal of Islamabad.

In a letter to Rep. Kay Granger, chair­woman of the Ap­pro­pri­a­tions sub­com­mit­tee on state, for­eign op­er­a­tions, Rep. Allen B. West said lawmakers should freeze aid to Pak­istan un­til the coun­try an­swers ques­tions about whether they aided and abet­ted the United States’ most-wanted ter­ror­ist.

“Un­less we get a clear ex­pla­na­tion of what the gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan knew about the where­abouts of Osama bin Laden, all for­eign aid [. . .] to this nation needs to cease,” the fresh­man Florida Repub­li­can said. “We need to un­der­stand whether the gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan was har­bor­ing Osama bin Laden for all these years. [. . . Did the gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan al­ways know where this ter­ror­ist was but in­stead did not bring him to jus­tice in or­der to con­tinue to re­ceive for­eign aid?”

Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein, In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee chair­woman, also sug­gested that aid to Pak­istan “could be changed.”

“That’s for sure,” the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat told re­porters, adding that the de­ci­sion will hinge on “what we find out about the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment’s knowl­edge of this.”

But House Speaker John A. Boehner pushed back, telling re­porters that now is the time to strengthen the U.S.-Pak­istan re­la­tion­ship be­cause it is a key el­e­ment for up­root­ing the ter­ror­ist net­works liv­ing there and tar­get­ing the United States.

“We both ben­e­fit from hav­ing a strong bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship,” Mr. Boehner said, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Jour­nal. “This is not a time to back away from Pak­istan. We need more en­gage­ment, not less.”

Less than 48 hours af­ter bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs, the death of the Sept. 11 mas­ter­mind re­mained all the buzz on Capi­tol Hill, where the Se­nate passed a res­o­lu­tion prais­ing the ef­forts of those in­volved in the risky U.S. mil­i­tary mis­sion.

Un­der­scor­ing the im­por­tance they at­tached to the vote, sen­a­tors broke with the chaotic na­ture of daily votes by sitting in their seats and then stand­ing one by one to voice sup­port for the res­o­lu­tion. “Nine-and-a-half years af­ter the worst morn­ing in our mem­ory, we woke up yes­ter­day morn­ing to a world with­out Osama bin Laden and with a pal­pa­ble sense of jus­tice,” Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat, said prior to the 97-0 vote.

Both cham­bers, mean­while, held hear­ings on re­lated mat­ters, and mem­bers re­ceived brief­ings from ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials as they tried to get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how much the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment, mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies knew about bin Laden’s where­abouts.

“If they didn’t know, why didn’t they know?” Mrs. Fe­in­stein said. “Why didn’t they pay more at­ten­tion to it? Was this just be­nign in­dif­fer­ence, or was it in­dif­fer­ence with a mo­tive? I don’t know what the an­swer is, and we need to find that out.”

Sen. Su­san M. Collins, Maine Repub­li­can who is the party’s rank­ing mem­ber of the Se­nate Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, first floated the idea of curb­ing

Rep. Ted Poe echoed Rep. Allen West’s call for Congress to freeze Pak­istan aid, say­ing the spigot should be turned off un­til the State Depart­ment cer­ti­fies to Congress that Pak­istan was not pro­vid­ing a sanc­tu­ary for the world’s most­wanted ter­ror­ist. “Pak­istan has a lot of ex­plain­ing to do,” the Texas Repub­li­can said. “It seems unimag­in­able that Osama bin Laden was liv­ing 1,000 yards away from a mil­i­tary base in a mil­lion-dol­lar man­sion built es­pe­cially for him and no one in the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment knew about it. I don’t buy it.”

Pak­istan’s fund­ing at a May 2 news con­fer­ence, say­ing that it seems the nation is play­ing a “dou­ble game” and that at­tach­ing strings to U.S. aid pack­ages could put ad­di­tional pres­sure on Pak­istan to help up­root ter­ror­ists liv­ing in the coun­try.

In 2010, the coun­try re­ceived al­most $1.5 bil­lion from the United States, in­clud­ing $243 mil­lion in mil­i­tary aid and $1.2 bil­lion in civil­ian as­sis­tance, ac- cord­ing to the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee. Pres­i­dent Obama’s 2012 spend­ing re­quest in­cludes $1.6 bil­lion in se­cu­ri­tyre­lated as­sis­tance and nearly $1.4 bil­lion in eco­nomic-re­lated as­sis­tance.

But with the United States strug­gling to deal with its own $14.3 tril­lion na­tional debt, Rep. Pa­trick Meehan, chair­man of a Home­land Se­cu­rity sub­com­mit­tee on coun­tert­er­ror­ism and in­tel­li­gence, told re­porters that the aid could be a tough sell to the Amer­i­can pub­lic be­cause of the “ele­phant in the room” — whether Pak­istan is wor­thy of the nation’s trust.

“There will be a need for con­tin­u­ing di­a­logue with the Pak­ista­nis to give the Amer­i­can peo­ple some sense of com­fort that there is a shared com­mit­ment,” the Penn­syl­va­nia Repub­li­can said, adding that that likely will de­ter­mine how Congress han­dles the aid pack­ages. Oth­ers took a tougher stance. Rep. Ted Poe echoed Mr. West’s call for Congress to freeze Pak­istan aid, say­ing the spigot should be turned off un­til the State Depart­ment cer­ti­fies to Congress that Pak­istan was not pro­vid­ing a sanc­tu­ary for the world’s most-wanted ter­ror­ist.

“Pak­istan has a lot of ex­plain­ing to do,” the Texas Repub­li­can said. “It seems unimag­in­able that Osama bin Laden was liv­ing 1,000 yards away from a mil­i­tary base in a mil­lion-dol­lar man­sion built es­pe­cially for him and no one in the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment knew about it. I don’t buy it.”

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