Republican rivals hit out at aid to Pakistan


Republican presidential hopefuls on Tuesday poured scorn on America’s faltering alliance with Pakistan and sounded a vote of no confidence in the Islamabad leadership, arguing that aid must be cut.
“The bottom line is that they’ve showed us time after time that they can’t be trusted,” Texas Governor Rick Perry said in a candidates’ debate centered on foreign policy.
“Until Pakistan clearly shows that they have America’s best interests in mind, I would not send them one penny, period,” he added.
Having sided with the United States and joined the “war on terror” after the September 11 attacks a decade ago Washington’s relationship with Islamabad has consistently come under strain, but the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in May plunged relations to a new low.
Perry’s remarks set the tone for a strongly critical stance on the nations’ strategic relationship.
Former US ambassador to Beijing Jon Huntsman said the dangers posed by Pakistan, with whom China has been increasing its diplomatic and military leverage in recent months, remained a significant concern.
“That’s the country that ought to keep everyone up at night,” Huntsman said of Pakistan. “You’ve got over 100 nuclear weapons. You’ve got trouble on the border. You’ve got a nation state that’s a candidate for failure.”
Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann said Pakistan was “one of the most violent, unstable nations that there is”, and said the fact that Islamabad has a cache of nuclear weapons had to be taken “very seriously”.
“Potentially al Qaeda could get hold of these weapons,” she said. “These weapons could find their way out of Pakistan into New York City or into Washington, DC. That’s how serious this is,” Bachmann said.
She also questioned the billions of dollars in aid that the US has given Pakistan since 2001.
“We need to demand more,” she said. “The money that we are sending right now is primarily intelligence money to Pakistan. Whatever our action is, it must ultimately be about helping the United States… our safety and our security.”
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who has surged in opinion polls in the past week, said the US-Pakistan relationship had to change given that American forces remain heavily committed in neighbouring Afghanistan.
“You overhaul the State Department to get the job done and you do it for real and you do it intensely and you tell the Pakistanis help us or get out of the way,” he said. “But don’t complain if we kill people you’re not willing to go after on your territory where you have been protecting them.”
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, with whom Gingrich is now tussling with at the head of the Republican pack, bidding to unseat President Barack Obama in November 2012, echoed his main rival’s concerns.
“Right now the American approval level in Pakistan is 12 percent,” Romney said. “We’re not doing a very good job with this huge investment.”