Top Senate Democrat Questions Aid to Pakistan

A senior member of the Senate Appropriations committee and the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), said in a letter to lawmakers that he is “reluctant to approve substantial additional U.S. foreign aid to Pakistan until questions have been answered about whether Pakistan government officials knew of Usama bin Laden’s location and offered support while he was in hiding.”

Senator Nelson made the comments in a letter he sent yesterday to legislators on the Senate’s top Appropriations Committee, which approves U.S. foreign aid. FOX Business has obtained the letter.

Potential hearings about U.S. aid to Pakistan may result from Sen. Nelson’s letter, addressed to Senate Appropriations committee chair Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) as well as Senator Patrick Leahy, (D-VT), who is chairman of the Subcommittee on the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.

“I urge you to lead the Senate Appropriations Committee to undertake a critical look at whether, and to what extent, Pakistani government, intelligence or military officials were complicit in hiding Bin Laden as we consider as a committee whether we should continue to provide aid to Pakistan,” Sen. Nelson wrote.

Senator Nelson also said in his weekly conference call with the Nebraska media: “The question is: who inside or outside of their government might have helped harbor Bin Laden? I expect we’ll learn much as the data and information seized in bin Laden’s compound is analyzed for details about his refuge in Pakistan.”

The senator added: “It’s my view that questions regarding Pakistan’s role in harboring Bin Laden must be answered before additional U.S. aid is provided. And until Pakistan can demonstrate that it is a true partner, I will be reluctant to support continuing to send substantial additional aid to Pakistan.”

Pakistan is among the top recipients of U.S. foreign aid. The U.S. has given $20.7 billion in tax dollars to Pakistan for military and economic development since 9/11, according to a report prepared for Congress last Friday by the Congressional Research Service [CRS], which relied on analysis by specialists in Southern Asia affairs.

The report showed the exact dollar amounts the U.S. has given is higher than figures cited by the media. The report also provides a road map for lawmakers to look at in considering curtailment of aid to Pakistan, or in tying strings to that aid.

The CRS report showed that the Administration has requested $3.4 billion in additional development and security aid to Pakistan. That includes more than $1 billion for continued reimbursements to the Pakistani military, Sen. Nelson noted.

The report also showed that the U.S. gave Pakistan $1.3 billion to help cancel a $1.5 billion debt Pakistan owed American taxpayers, among other things [see Emac’s Bottom Line: “How Much Did the U.S. Give Pakistan?”]

Nelson said in a statement: “I understand well that our relationship with Pakistan is both complex and critical to U.S. national security. But we must have a clear, thorough and honest assessment of Bin Laden’s refuge in Pakistan. And in my view, there must be accountability before we provide additional foreign aid to Pakistan.”