Top Dem downplays Pakistan strain

A top House Democrat predicted Tuesday that U.S. relations with Pakistan will remain favorable following the death of Osama bin Laden.

"We recognize that this relationship has been strained," Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), chairman of the Democratic Caucus, told reporters during a short press conference at the Capitol. "But nonetheless we also recognize its strategic importance and the need for us to work together."

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A White House official said Monday that it's "inconceivable" that Pakistan was not providing a "support system" for the notorious al Qaeda leader, who was killed Sunday by U.S. special forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan, roughly 30 miles north of the capital city of Islamabad. Pakistani officials were not told beforehand of the attack on bin Laden's compound, the White House said.

"People are raising a number of questions," said Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan, "and understandably so."

Those concerns were echoed by Sen. Carl Levin, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who also raised questions Monday about whether Pakistan was complicit in hiding bin Laden. The Michigan Democrat said it's "hard to imagine" the Pakistani government wasn't aware the 9/11 mastermind was living in the sprawling Abbottabad compound, just miles from a Pakistan military academy. 

Pakistani officials, Levin warned, “have some explaining to do.”

Larson, however, was quick to downplay the tension between the two countries.

"Let us hope — and certainly the words coming out of the Pakistani government have been encouraging — that we'll work together going forward, and I think that's the common goal that we're looking for," he said.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a member of the Armed Services panel, has also been careful to note the strategic importance of Pakistan in the U.S. battle against Islamic terrorism.

“This incident [shows] Pakistan is a critical but uncertain ally," Collins said Monday.