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The closure of that route last November following a mistaken bombing of a border post that killed 24 Pakistani policemen was the issue that caused the appropriations subcommittee to cut president Obama’s request of $2.27 billion in military aid to Pakistan by 58%. “We’re not going to be giving money to an ally that won’t be an ally,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Most of the money — $800 million — was cut from a counterinsurgency training fund, which was reduced to $50 million, and restoration of the funds was conditional on the Pakistani government re-opening the supply line.
That money still might be provided to the Pakistani army. Funds could be drawn from other sources in the foreign aid package to Islamabad, and there’s even a chance that the full Senate, or the House might restore the cuts before sending the $52 billion foreign aid bill to the president for his signature.
But judging by the angry comments made by senators before they voted the $33 million in additional cuts to the military aid package, the congress has just about had it with Islamabad’s unfriendly actions. The amendment was sponsored by Graham and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and the South Carolina senator didn’t mince words when urging his colleagues on the committee to vote for the measure:
“When it comes to Pakistan, every member of this committee is challenged to go home and answer the question, ‘Why are we helping Pakistan?'” he said. “We can’t trust Pakistan, but we can’t abandon them.”
If we don’t get those truck routes open so we can serve our troops in Afghanistan, we’re going to stop the funding … I do not expect Americans to sit on the sideline and watch the negotiations turn into extortion.
Rather than make excuses for Pakistan’s actions as many on the Hill have done in the past, senators piled on the criticism of the government, military, and especially the double-dealing intelligence agency, the ISI. Perhaps the most serious criticism came from Appropriations Committee member Diane Feinstein (D-CA) who also chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I have long believed that Pakistan, especially the ISI, walks both sides of the street when it comes to terror,” she said. Feinstein pointed out that the leaders of the Haqqani network and the Taliban live in Pakistan, and that the government has made little effort to apprehend them. She also alluded to the Afridi case, saying:
He was not and is not a spy for our country. This was not a crime against Pakistan. It was an effort and locate and help bring to justice the world’s No. 1 terrorist. This conviction says to me that al Qaeda is viewed by the court to be Pakistan … I don’t know which side of the war Pakistan is on.
That sentiment was common among senators. “It is Alice in Wonderland, at best, but it is outrageous in itself. If this is cooperation, I would hate like heck to see opposition,” said co-sponsor Senator Leahy.
What we have heard coming from Congress in recent days is a lot less sentimentality about how Pakistan and America need each other and some welcome realism about Pakistan’s playing on that sentiment to advance their own interests which are directly opposed to both the US and Afghanistan. It should be clear after events in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and other Arab countries affected by the “Arab Spring” that it is useless to try to use our influence to stop the Islamization of any country. If the people in Pakistan don’t want to be ruled by Islamic fanatics, they are going to have to stop the rise of the Islamists themselves. Nothing we can do will affect the strengthening of the extremists in the Pakistani Taliban, or other Islamist groups seeking to take over the government of Pakistan and establish an Islamic state.
Does congressional anger over the conviction and imprisonment of Dr. Afridi as well as the steep cut in military aid to Pakistan mean that a sea change has taken place in opinion on the Hill and that a bi-partisan majority will seek to change the administration’s line on relations with Islamabad? It certainly appears at this point that there has been a hardening of hearts toward Pakistan and that congressional patience with their playing both sides of the fence in the war against Islamic extremism is at an end.
If true, Pakistan will have to do a lot more to prove their worthiness of American tax dollars for their economy and their military. Acting like an ally rather than a duplicitous foe would be a good start.
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