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"It's Alice in Wonderland at best," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). "If this is cooperation, I'd hate like hell to see opposition."
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Senate Committee Cuts Aid to
Pakistan Over 'Treason' Conviction

The Washington Examiner
A Senate panel expressed its outrage Thursday over Pakistan's conviction of a doctor who helped the United States track down Osama bin Laden, cutting aid to Islamabad by $33 million -- $1 million for every year of the physician's 33-year sentence for high treason.

The punitive move came on top of deep reductions the Appropriations Committee had already made to President Obama's budget request for Pakistan, a reflection of the growing congressional anger over its cooperation in combatting terrorism. The overall foreign aid budget for next year had slashed more than half of the proposed assistance and threatened further reductions if Islamabad fails to open overland supply routes to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Pushing aside any diplomatic talk, Republicans and Democrats criticized Pakistan one day after the conviction of Shakil Afridi. The doctor ran a vaccination program for the CIA to collect DNA and verify bin Laden's presence at the compound in Abbottabad where US commandos found and killed the al Qaeda leader in May 2011.

The United States has called for Afridi's release, arguing that he was acting in the interest of the United States and Pakistan.

"We need Pakistan, Pakistan needs us, but we don't need Pakistan double-dealing and not seeing the justice in bringing Osama bin Laden to an end," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who pushed for the additional cut in aid.

He called Pakistan "a schizophrenic ally," helping the United States at one turn, but then aiding the Haqqani network which has claimed responsibility for several attacks on Americans. The group also has ties to al Qaeda and the Taliban.

"It's Alice in Wonderland at best," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). "If this is cooperation, I'd hate like hell to see opposition."

One of the most forceful statements came from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who also serves that the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. She pointed out that Pakistan has suffered at the hands of terrorists yet misconstrued what is treason in convicting Afridi. She also insisted that Afridi was not a spy. "This is a very sad day," she said.

The committee approved Graham's amendment to cut the assistance by $33 million on a 30-0 vote.

In crafting the overall legislation, the committee reduced Obama's request to aid Pakistan by 58 percent as resentment and doubts linger on Capitol Hill a year after bin Laden was killed deep inside Pakistan. Tensions between Washington and Islamabad have increased as Pakistan closed overland supply routes to Afghanistan after a US attack on the Pakistani side of the border killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.

The United States and Pakistan failed to resolve the issue at the recent NATO summit in Chicago.

Members of the Senate committee also complained about mafia-style extortion by Pakistan in seeking truck fees in exchange for opening the supply lines. The cost had been $250 per truck prior to the attack. Pakistan is now demanding $5,000 per truck. The United States has countered at $500.

The bill would provide just under $1 billion in aid to Pakistan, including $184 million for State Department operations and $800 million for foreign assistance. Counterinsurgency money for Pakistan would be limited to $50 million. The legislation also conditions the counterinsurgency aid on Pakistan reopening the supply routes.

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Editor's Note: It's rare that we are on the same page as Senator Leahy, but it is true, if this is cooperation we would have to see what opposition looks like. As one regular reader put it, "Obama's got your back? Cut off all funding unless he is freed!"


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