Senior US senators urge halt to Pakistan aid

Senior United States Senate Democrats are urging the Obama administration not to disburse any more security aid to Pakistan until it is sure Islamabad is not letting Al Qaeda and other militant groups operate there.

After US Special Forces found and killed Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in a Pakistan military town May 2, lawmakers from both parties are questioning whether billions of dollars in annual American aid to Pakistan should continue. Observers say that nearly $2 billion in US aid to Pakistani might be in jeopardy this year.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, as well as Senators Robert Menendez, Ben Nelson and Jon Tester wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The discovery of Bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad "indicates, at a minimum, a lack of commitment by the Pakistani military to aggressive cooperation with the United States," the senators told Mr. Gates and Mrs. Clinton.

"It is incongruous to be providing enormous sums to the Pakistani military unless we are certain that it is meeting its commitment to locate, disrupt and dismantle terrorist threats inside its borders," they said in the letter dated Tuesday.

"Prior to the provision of any additional assistance … we urge you to assess Pakistan’s commitment," they said.

Senators Feinstein, Nelson and Tester are also on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will help decide whether Congress will allocate Pakistan any more US aid, according to Reuters.

But some congressional leaders are urging caution, saying Pakistan has also lost many of its own soldiers fighting extremist groups in its border areas.

"This is not the time to start flexing our muscles," Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid told reporters on Tuesday. "This is the time to withhold judgment" until more is known about whether Pakistani officials knew where bin Laden was hiding.

Over the last decade, Congress has approved about $20 billion for Pakistan in economic aid and military reimbursements for helping to fight extremists in the region. About half of this has been security-related.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Gates said he believes "somebody" in Pakistan knew Osama Bin Laden was hiding there, but there is still no evidence that top leadership in the country was aware.

And Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Mike Mullen says it may take a while to find out if bin Laden had Pakistani protectors, as US intelligence agencies analyze notebooks, computer data and other material seized when Bin Laden was killed this month in a US raid, according to Agence-France Presse.

Mr. Gates and Admiral Mullen spoke at a news conference Wednesday amid growing anger in Congress. Many lawmakers want to cut aid to Pakistan unless it takes strong action against militants using the country as a safe haven.

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