Montana's U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester are urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates to reassess Pakistan's efforts to fight terrorists and extremists within Pakistan's own borders before continuing to provide U.S. security aid.
"We are incredibly proud and grateful of the American forces who did their job to bring down Osama bin Laden. Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding bin Laden's capture have raised concerns about Pakistan's commitment to fighting terrorism," Baucus said. "We've got serious questions, and we need answers before continuing to spend taxpayer dollars in Pakistan. If aid to Pakistan isn't being used to make the world safer for all of us, that money should be going to pay down the deficit and help folks struggling here at home."
"We've got some serious questions that need answered before we agree to send more hard-earned taxpayer money to Pakistan," said Tester, a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Appropriations Committees. "We need to ensure that not one penny is directly or indirectly given to folks who complicate our military operations in the region, place our troops in harm's way, or harbor those who threaten our national security."
Baucus and Tester joined senate colleagues yesterday in a letter urging the Administration to reassess Pakistan's commitment to fighting terrorism in light of the recent discovery of Osama bin Laden's compound. In the letter, Baucus and Tester called on the Administration to question Pakistan's commitment to: ceasing support to extremist and terrorist groups; preventing Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated terrorist groups from operating on the territory of Pakistan; and strengthening counterterrorism and anti-money laundering laws. Baucus and Tester plan to evaluate these benchmarks when assessing where to cut spending in order to reduce the deficit.
Text of the Senators' letter to Secretaries Clinton and Gates below.
May 17, 2011
The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State
The Honorable Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense
Congratulations on the success of your efforts to locate and bring Osama Bin Laden to justice. This achievement will allow our nation to begin looking forward and to assess our next steps in the continuing effort to combat terrorist threats against Americans.
In this context, we are gravely concerned about the commitment of Pakistan's security establishment to fighting terrorism, specifically its efforts to locate and disrupt terrorist activity within its borders. The discovery of Osama Bin Laden in a military town less than forty miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad indicates, at a minimum, a lack of commitment by the Pakistani military to aggressive cooperation with the United States. This is particularly concerning as the Congress again considers increasing security assistance to Pakistan.
In the last five years, the United States has dramatically increased security assistance and reimbursement to Pakistan making it the third largest recipient of such funds after Afghanistan and Israel. U.S. security-related assistance to Pakistan has increased by 140% since 2007 to $2.7 billion in FY 2010. This includes large increases in direct reimbursements to Pakistan's Treasury through the Coalition Support Fund - a fund intended to reimburse U.S. allies for incremental costs associated with supporting U.S. combat operations. In FY 2010, the United States reimbursed Pakistan for $1.5 billion in expenses through the Coalition Support Fund, which represents more than double the amount provided the previous fiscal year.
At a time when we are contemplating cutbacks to foreign assistance programs and scrutinizing every domestic program to ensure maximum effectiveness, it is incongruous to be providing enormous sums to the Pakistani military unless we are certain that it is meeting its commitment to locate, disrupt and dismantle terrorist threats inside its borders. Prior to the provision of any additional security assistance, including Coalition Support Funds and Pakistan Counterinsurgency/Counterinsurgency Capability Funds, we urge you to assess Pakistan's commitment to and efforts toward: (A) ceasing support to extremist and terrorist groups; (B) preventing Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated terrorist groups from operating on the territory of Pakistan; and (C) strengthening counterterrorism and anti-money laundering laws.
We believe that conducting this assessment will be crucial for the Congress to determine whether to provide the full range of security assistance called for in the FY 11 Continuing Resolution and the FY 12 budget.
We share your commitment to addressing all terrorist threats to our nation and we recognize the strategic importance of Pakistan. However, we cannot overlook the logical conclusion of recent events, which is to question whether the Pakistani security establishment is ardently working to prevent terrorist groups from operating on Pakistani soil.
Senator Robert Menendez
Senator Max Baucus
Senator Jon Tester
Senator Ben Nelson
Senator Dianne Feinstein