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Congress / national security

Grumbling Over Pakistan Spans Party Lines

President Obama met with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in the Oval Office in December.(Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images)

photo of Lindsey Boerma
May 3, 2011

If it were up to freshman Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., a retired Army lieutenant colonel, the United States would sever aid to Pakistan immediately.

In light of speculation that the U.S. ally was withholding intelligence or even aiding and abetting Osama bin Laden prior to his death as he laid low in an affluent Pakistani community, West told Fox and Friends hosts on Tuesday morning that “it’s not too early to say” whether or not the United States should cut off Pakistan funding.

“There are some questions that the president of Pakistan needs to answer for us,” he said, “and right now, I’m not willing to open up the American taxpayer dollars to Pakistan any further.”

 

It’s not a surprising position from West, a regular source of tea party-based fiscal conservatism. But such sentiment isn’t streaming solely from the right. On Monday, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., told NPR that while the United States should “be careful not to cut off our nose to spite our face,” the questions surrounding Pakistan are “legitimate,” and that although some of the U.S. dollars spent there have paid off, “we have to be honest with ourselves as we evaluate this.”

Belief that the United States should take pause before burning any bridges in Pakistan is similarly bipartisan. In a joint appearance on CNN’s American Morning, Reps. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, and Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said cutting off aid to Pakistan may be a dangerous knee-jerk reaction.

“Pakistan sent troops into the tribal areas and took thousands and thousands of casualties trying to fight al-Qaida elements,” Rogers said. “But there are some concerns about their intelligence service being penetrated at the same time, and we do have to consider them. It is a very funny relationship.”

Sanchez agreed. “There are bad people in Pakistan and good people at all levels,” she said. “We need to find the good people and help the good people spread the type of secular democracy I hope most of us want to see in almost every nation in the world.... As with anything else, it is a very complicated issue.”

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