The Cable

Democrats and Republicans unite around criticism of Pakistan

In a rare moment of bipartisan unity in the Senate, Democrats and Republicans joined together to admonish Pakistan for its treatment of the doctor who helped the United States find Osama bin Laden.

At a Senate Appropriations Committee markup this morning, senior senators from both sides of the aisle took turns accusing Pakistan of supporting terrorism, undermining the war in Afghanistan, extorting the U.S. taxpayer, and punishing Shakil Afridi, the doctor who worked with the CIA to find Bin Laden and was sentenced this week to 33 years in jail for treason. One senior senator predicted the Pakistani government was about to fall.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the heads of the State and Foreign Operations subcommittee, co-sponsored an amendment to the fiscal 2013 foreign affairs funding bill that would withhold $33 million in foreign military aid to Pakistan -- one year for each year of Afridi's sentence. That amendment came on top of new restrictions in the bill that would withhold all counterinsurgency aid to Pakistan if Islamabad doesn't reopen trucking routes for supplies for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

But senators' frustration with Pakistan was not limited to recent events; they piled on with criticism of Pakistan's government, military, and intelligence services' actions throughout the war in Afghanistan. All agreed that the U.S.-Pakistan relationship as currently arranged was dysfunctional and undermining U.S. national security interests.

Graham started by pointing out that the Senate is proposing reductions in next year's emergency funding for Pakistan by 58 percent from the president's request.

"When it comes to Pakistan, every member of this committee is challenged to go home and answer the question, ‘Why are we helping Pakistan?'" he said. "We can't trust Pakistan, but we can't abandon them."

"If we don't get those truck routes open so we can serve our troops in Afghanistan, we're going to stop the funding ... I do not expect Americans to sit on the sideline and watch the negotiations turn into extortion," said Graham.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) launched into a widespread criticism of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), the country's premier spy agency.

"I have long believed that Pakistan, especially the ISI, walks both sides of the street when it comes to terror," she said, noting that most leaders of the Taliban and the Haqqani network are assessed to be living in Pakistan. She also spoke about the Afridi case.

"He was not and is not a spy for our country. This was not a crime against Pakistan. It was an effort and locate and help bring to justice the world's No. 1 terrorist," she said. "This conviction says to be that al Qaeda is viewed by the court to be Pakistan ... I don't know which side of the war Pakistan is on."

Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) went next and said Feinstein's sentiments about Afridi were shared by many in the Senate. He was followed by Leahy, who said he was "outraged" about the Afridi case and said Pakistan public statements criticizing terrorism don't match its actions.

"It is Alice in Wonderland, at best, but it is outrageous in itself. If this is cooperation, I would hate like heck to see opposition," Leahy said.

"Pakistan is a schizophrenic at best ally," Graham said as he introduced the amendment to cut funding over the Afridi situation. "They are helping the Haqqani network ... which is basically a mob trying to take over parts of Afghanistan. And the ISI constantly provides assistance in Quetta on the Pakistani side of the border."

"The situation with the doctor is a classic example of not understanding the world the way it is," Graham said. "We need Pakistan, but we don't need a Pakistan that cannot see the justice in bringing bin Laden to an end."

Graham then took a shot at Pakistan's civilian government, which is often at odds with the military and the intelligence agencies.

"This government is about to fall. They are not serving their own people," Graham said.

Feinstein did chime in at the end of the debate with praise for Pakistan's new ambassador to Washington, Sherry Rehman.

"To me this is a very sad day. I have met the new Pakistani ambassador," Feinstein said. "She is a brilliant woman, she speaks fluent English, she has had a distinguished career.... This is just very hard to reconcile."

The amendment passed unanimously 30-0.

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