News / Asia

Frayed US-Pakistani Ties Probed on Capitol Hill

Former U.S. national security adviser (retired) General James Jones (FILE).
Former U.S. national security adviser (retired) General James Jones (FILE).
Michael Bowman

Former U.S. national security advisor Marine General James Jones says the future of U.S.-Pakistani relations is being decided in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden, and says Pakistan must change its behavior if frayed ties are to be salvaged.  

For weeks, U.S. lawmakers have been asking whether billions of dollars in U.S. assistance to Pakistan is money well spent.

Republican Senator James Risch of Idaho noted pervasive anti-American sentiment in Pakistan that appears to have intensified since U.S. Special Forces raided bin-Laden’s compound outside Islamabad.

“Every poll you see that comes out of there [shows that] they do not like us," said Risch. "They had the terrible tragedy with the floods [last year].  We went in, we were the first ones there. We sent the military in, we saved people’s lives. Then we spent hundreds of millions of dollars rebuilding the bridges that were washed out. Idahoans ask why we are spending our kids and our grandkids’ money to do this in a country that really does not like us?”

Risch expressed particular annoyance with Pakistan’s prime minister for recent comments describing China as Pakistan’s “true” friend.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was President Barack Obama’s former National Security Advisor, James Jones. The retired Marine general spoke bluntly about Pakistan’s actions going forward.

“There has to be a change in behavior,” he said.

Pakistan has tough choices to make that have become more pressing since bin-Laden’s demise," Jones said.

“Is it going to be a state where they tolerate the existence of terrorist organizations on their soil as an instrument of their foreign policy?  If they reject that and categorically say so, and then show that they are actually doing some things to correct that image, then I think perhaps the goodwill of the international community and our goodwill might be a little easier to explain [justify].”

The general added that what happens in coming weeks will have significant strategic consequences for U.S.-Pakistani relations in the future, and that “more of the onus (responsibility) is on Pakistan” when it comes to mending fences.

The committee’s chairman, Democratic Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, said the United States has 100,000 reasons to maintain a productive relationship with Pakistan: America’s troop commitment in neighboring Afghanistan.

Kerry oversaw the hearing hours after returning from a trip to Pakistan. The senator echoed demands for greater Pakistani cooperation with the United States, but added the following:

“We do have to remember than Pakistan has sacrificed enormously in the fight against violent extremism," Kerry said.  "Over 35,000 of its citizens have died as a result of extremist violent acts. And they are, themselves, suffering from insurgency in their country. Over 5,000 of their soldiers have died in efforts to go into the West [border region] and take on the insurgents,” added Kerry.

The ranking Republican on the committee, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, said Pakistan’s reputation as a fighter of terrorism is undermined by its tolerance of Afghan militants and groups allied with the Taliban.  Lugar said this seeming contradiction has implications for future U.S. aid.

“Pakistanis must recognize the United States does not give out blank checks.  Going forward, Pakistan must do much more than it has to root out terrorists in Pakistan,” said Lugar.

Former National Security Advisor Jones said Pakistan will continue to be a reluctant U.S. ally so long as it believes robust U.S. engagement and assistance in the region will wind down once U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

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