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After Osama bin Laden's death, Congress rethinks aid to Pakistan

The killing of Osama bin Laden could have a profound effect on three big issues in American policy: aid to Pakistan, the usefulness of harsh interrogation techniques, and the Afghanistan war.

By Staff writer / May 3, 2011

Senate majority leader Harry Reid (r.) and Sen. Carl Levin talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington Monday about the operation that took down Osama bin Laden.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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Washington

In a rare standing vote, US senators voted unanimously on Tuesday to honor the members of the military and intelligence community who killed Osama bin Laden.

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It’s a procedure reserved for solemn moments, such as the vote for emergency funding after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which was also unanimous.

Success in the hunt for Mr. bin Laden, which eluded both Presidents Clinton and Bush, gives President Obama new credibility at home and abroad in his leadership on national security. But the fallout from this operation also has reopened three crucial topics for debate, all of which produce anything but unanimity on Capitol Hill: relations with Pakistan, the value of interrogation techniques critics call torture in the hunt for bin Laden, and the ongoing role of US forces in Afghanistan.

"It clearly has a ripple effect in the region, but in ways that may create a whole series of new challenges for Obama,” says Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

Aid to Pakistan

A top concern for many lawmakers was what Pakistan knew about bin Laden’s fortified complex in a garrison town about 75 miles by road from the Pakistani capital. In floor speeches, congressional hearings and comments off the floor, lawmakers challenged whether the US should continue military and economic assistance to a nation that may not be committed to the defeat of Al Qaeda.

“In a town where the Pakistani military and intelligence services own a large share of the property, Al Qaeda appears to have built a massive complex, ringed by walls as high as 18 feet, protected by barbed wire, as the dedicated hiding place for Osama bin Laden,” said Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee during Tuesday’s floor debate on the resolution.

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