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.
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Bill cuts aid to Pakistan
A House panel this week approved a defense spending bill that would cut aid to Pakistan and includes a provision to withhold three quarters of the $1.1 billion in US aid to the country until the administration reports to Congress on how it will spend the money.Skip to next paragraph
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“It’s very clear large parts of the Pakistani establishment are deeply anti-American. We should be very angry that they were, in fact, hiding bin Laden,” Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told Fox News. “When the Pakistani reaction is to punish the people who are helping America, I think we better rethink our entire relationship.”
But punishing Pakistan is not likely to help the cause of US troops in Afghanistan, say US military officials. The vast majority of the Pentagon’s armored vehicles, and most of the fuel that the US military uses, is transported to America’s many bases in landlocked Afghanistan via Karachi.
What’s more, officials point out, the United States cut off Pakistan after the country became a nuclear power, to disastrous effect. A generation of Pakistani military officers became more distrustful of the United States, they argue.
Continue frank dialogue
Instead, the officials say, the US should continue to engage in a frank dialogue with the country, which is more concerned about tensions with neighboring India than with insurgents in their borders.
“I’m optimistic about Pakistan if we have the willingness to confront them,” Senator Graham said. “I do believe at the end of the day the choice that Pakistan has to make is pretty clear.”
Yet as far as financial aid goes, US officials are “going to have to start putting conditions” on it, Graham said, including “benchmarks and measurements” of progress.
For now, Graham argued against cutting off aid entirely – or overestimating its importance. “The aid is probably replaceable,” he said. “So don’t let’s overcalculate the fact that we provide aid to the government and the Pakistani security forces as the ultimate leverage,” he said, “because it’s not.”
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