Lawmakers Question U.S. Aid Program To Pakistan In Wake Of Bin Laden’s Death

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) on Wednesday “urged a halt to an aid program for flood victims in Pakistan in the wake of revelations that slain al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden lived there unperturbed for years,” Agence France-Presse reports.

Granger, “who chairs a key committee with oversight over foreign assistance, pressed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to shelve nearly $200 million in ‘cash payments’ to Pakistan agencies.” In a letter to Clinton, Granger said the finding of Bin Laden “reinforces my greater concern that the government may be incapable of distributing U.S. funds in a transparent manner that allows proper oversight of taxpayer dollars” (5/4).

On Tuesday, “a wide range of powerful lawmakers” also questioned whether the U.S. should continue to deliver “billions in foreign aid” to Pakistan, Politico reports. “President Barack Obama has requested $3 billion for Pakistan next year, adding to the roughly $13 billion the U.S. gave the country over the last decade, making it one of the leading recipients of U.S. dollars. About $6 billion has been spent on development and humanitarian aid,” Politico notes.

The article quotes several members of Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Foreign Affairs Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), and others (Raju/Sherman, 5/3).

“Amid the harsh criticism of Pakistan, Boehner and others said this was not the time to back away from Pakistan,” the Associated Press reports. “I think we need more engagement, not less,” he said. “Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups have made Pakistan a target. … Having a robust partnership with Pakistan is critical to breaking the back of al-Qaeda and the rest of them.”

“Boehner said it was premature to talk about cutting off U.S. aid to Pakistan. When pressed on the level of funds, however, he said it was imperative that the U.S. have an ‘eyeball to eyeball conversation about where this relationship is going'” (5/4).

Even before the announcement that Bin Laden had been killed, the New York Times examined issues that have slowed U.S. delivery of aid in Pakistan. The newspaper reported that the U.S. aid program to Pakistan was “foundering because Washington’s fears of Pakistani corruption and incompetence has slowed disbursal of the money, undermining a fundamental goal of the United States in Pakistan, officials from both nations say” (Perlez, 5/1).  

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