Key senators urge review of aid to Pakistan
WASHINGTON — The United States must “fully review” ties to Pakistan and weigh possible cuts or new restrictions to military and economic aid, Republican US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham urged Monday.
“The United States has been incredibly patient with Pakistan. And we have been so despite certain undeniable and deeply disturbing facts,” they said in a joint statement on sorely tested relations between Washington and Islamabad.
They cited alleged support from Pakistani army and intelligence officials for the Haqqani network “and other terrorist groups” blamed for attacks on US targets in Afghanistan “that are killing US troops.”
“The time has come for the United States to fully review its relations with Pakistan. We must assess the nature and levels of our support for Pakistan,” said the senators.
“In particular, all options regarding US security and economic assistance to Pakistan must be on the table, including substantial reductions and stricter standards for performance,” they said.
McCain serves as the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, while Graham is a member of that panel and is the top Republican on the committee that allocates US foreign aid.
“US policy toward Pakistan must proceed from the realistic understanding that certain actions of Pakistan’s military are contributing to the death and injury of our men and women in the military and jeopardizing our national security interests,” said the senators.
Ties between Washington and Islamabad took a turn for the worse after a US special operations raid killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the sleepy Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad in May.
Relations slid to a new low last month when NATO air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border, prompting Pakistan to boycott the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan’s future.
McCain and Graham offered their “deep condolences” over those killed in that “unfortunate and unintentional” strike and predicted that a NATO-US military investigation would “clarify the circumstances of this terrible tragedy.”
“The Pakistani government’s response to these events, however, has been deeply troubling and has added to the continued deterioration of our relationship,” they said.
They pointed to Pakistan preventing NATO supplies from reaching Afghanistan, ordering US intelligence officers to leave the country, and boycotting the Bonn conference, and reports that Islamabad may have decided to suspend all bilateral counter-terrorism agreements as part of a review of overall military relations.
“Such steps by the Pakistani government would mark a new low for our relationship,” they warned.
McCain and Graham called for the United States and its allies to “develop contingency plans” for supplying US forces in Afghanistan.