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Does it make sense to punish Pakistan for the arrest of CIA informants?

The reported arrest of CIA informants who helped the US find Osama bin Laden has raised anger on Capitol Hill. But hastily punishing Pakistan could harm the US war effort in Afghanistan, Pentagon officials caution.

By Anna MulrineStaff writer / June 15, 2011

Men walk past a view point on a hilltop overlooking Abbottabad on June 15. Osama bin Laden was killed in a raid in Abbottabad on May 2.

Mian Khursheed/Reuters

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Washington

Enthusiasm for aid to Pakistan has waned considerably on Capitol Hill and among presidential hopefuls following the news Tuesday that Pakistan had arrested the CIA informants who helped the United States find Osama bin Laden.

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But Pentagon officials – and some senior members of the Senate Armed Services Committee – are cautioning that hasty moves to withdraw aid from the insurgency-plagued country that borders Afghanistan could have a negative impact on the US military’s war efforts.

In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, cautioned that “changes to these relationships in either aid or assistance ought to be considered only with an abundance of caution and a thorough appreciation for the long view, rather than the flush of public passion and the urgency to save a dollar.”

Yet these two powerful catalysts are already having an impact on lawmakers sensitive to constituent concerns. After finding Al Qaeda’s leader bin Laden in a leafy suburb full of Pakistani military officers, “it is almost impossible for an American politician to continue to help Pakistan,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, acknowledged Wednesday.

Speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, he ominously warned that the Pakistani security forces who arrested the US intelligence assets “did more than arrest them – I’m sure that’ll come out later.”

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