Schumer: Pakistan is top foreign-policy problem for US in coming decade

Pakistan will be the sharpest foreign-policy thorn in the side of the U.S. over the next decade, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) predicted Friday.

"I would guess that our No. 1 foreign-policy problem over the next 10 years will be Pakistan," Schumer told the CBS Early Show. "It's nuclear. It's poor. It's ethnically divided and it's never had good leadership."

The comments arrive a few days after U.S. special operations forces killed Osama bin Laden, the architect of the 9/11 attacks, in Abbottabad, Pakistan — a town just 30-some miles from the capital of Islamabad.

For years, Pakistani officials had suggested that the al Qaeda leader was either dead or hiding out in Afghanistan. Instead, he turned up in an affluent neighborhood less than a mile from a prestigious Pakistani military academy.

The news has raised plenty of eyebrows on Capitol Hill, where a growing number of lawmakers are wondering if Pakistani leaders knew of bin Laden's whereabouts all along. Pakistani officials have denied such knowledge, and the White House has said there's no evidence to indicate otherwise.

On Wednesday, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) introduced legislation that would freeze U.S. military aid to Pakistan until officials can prove that Pakistani leaders weren't harboring bin Laden.

Also on Wednesday, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), who heads the Appropriations Committee's subpanel on foreign operations, urged the White House to pull back $190 million of U.S. aid to Pakistani flood victims.

"My opposition," Granger wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "has only been heightened by the discovery of the most notorious terrorist in the world living hundreds of yards from a Pakistani military installation for more than five years."  

Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the upper chamber, cautioned that Pakistan remains a vital strategic ally in the ongoing war against Islamic terrorism. The trick for U.S. officials, he said, will be finding a balance between maintaining relations with Pakistan's pro-democracy leaders while simultaneously rooting out the anti-Western sentiment there.

"Any country that makes as its hero Doctor A.Q. Khan, the man who sold the nuclear bomb to North Korea, something's wrong there," Schumer said. "On the other hand, Pakistan is a vital link in the war on terror and there are parts of Pakistan that are pro-Western, there are parts that are pro-terror.

"Our job is not to withdraw but to strengthen the parts that are pro-Western," he said.

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