Senators uneasy about Afghanistan, Pakistan

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 21, 2011 2:45 PM
Senators uneasy about Afghanistan, Pakistan

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two senior Republican senators expressed unease on Wednesday about what was being accomplished by U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying matters were drifting and disheartening.

Senators Richard Lugar and Bob Corker appeared to be warning of growing doubts among lawmakers about U.S. efforts in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, where Washington is waging a bloody war in one country and struggling to get full cooperation against militants in another.

"I just sense a drift with regards to the Afghanistan situation, with regard to Pakistan," said Lugar, the leading Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Corker, who recently traveled to the area, said at a hearing of the committee that "in order to maintain appropriate relations, I will not publicly articulate my feelings after meeting with the leaders" in Pakistan.

But he added Pakistan was "the most disheartening place in the world to be, when you are talking about the type of relationship that we have."

U.S.-Pakistani ties, long strained over complaints that Pakistan has not done enough to go after militants launching attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, have reached a nadir as Washington pushes for the release of a U.S. intelligence contractor locked in a Pakistani jail.

The fate of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who worked at the U.S. consulate in Lahore and is charged with killing two men last month in what he said was an attempted robbery, has thrown billions of dollars in U.S. military and civilian aid to Pakistan into jeopardy.

Corker said the relationship was basically "transactional," but "our side of the transaction is the only side that to me is being fulfilled. I think that in many ways we get played like a piece of music."

He would be "very slow to talk about additional funding (for Pakistan) until we see a different behavior pattern."

U.S. criticism of Pakistan has become increasingly vocal over the past year as many lawmakers argue that Afghanistan cannot be won if Pakistan does not act more decisively against al Qaeda and other militants along its western border.

"It is hugely disheartening to see what we are doing in Afghanistan taking place knowing that the center of it all is really in Pakistan," Corker said. "And there's no real effort to deal with it on their part."

The Pakistani government, struggling to hold a fragile coalition government together and fend off an insurgent threat of its own, contends it has made strides against militants.

(Additional reporting by Missy Ryan)