Key US senators say wait for facts on Pakistan
WASHINGTON: Key US senators appealed Thursday for a calm reaction after Osama bin Laden was found in Pakistan, saying it was vital to preserve cooperation with the nuclear-armed Islamic nation.
John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Richard Lugar, the committee’s top Republican, voiced deep concern at the possibility that Pakistan protected bin Laden but said they would wait for a probe.
“Nothing obviously would excuse the harboring of the number one criminal in the world, but we need to explore carefully what exactly the facts are,” Kerry, a close ally of President Barack Obama, said at a Senate hearing.
Kerry said that the United States needed Pakistan’s assistance to pursue extremists in the future and to supply the 100,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan.
“A legitimate analysis concludes that it is undeniable that our relationship with Pakistan has helped us pursue our security goals,” Kerry said.
Kerry said that the United States needed to be mindful of the political problems of President Asif Ali Zardari, a civilian who took over in 2008 after a decade of military-backed rule, as he works with the United States.
The senator said he saw unprecedented anti-American sentiment when he last visited in the wake of the killing of two Pakistanis by Raymond Davis, a CIA operative who was released due to his diplomatic immunity.
Kerry and Lugar, along with Representative Howard Berman, authored a 2009 bill that authorized $7.5 billion for Pakistan to build roads, schools and other institutions in the hope of boosting democratic institutions.
A number of US lawmakers have questioned aid to Pakistan, saying they could not justify it to voters at a time of US budget-cutting after bin Laden was found a short drive away from the country’s top military academy.
But Lugar echoed Kerry, saying that a lessening of relations with Pakistan would weaken US intelligence gathering and impede US efforts to encourage dialogue between Pakistan and its historic rival India. Cutting off assistance to Pakistan would be “unwise and extremely dangerous,” Lugar said.