Senate panel cuts Pakistan's aid in response to doctor's conviction

Senate appropriators unanimously voted Thursday to cut Pakistani aid by $33 million, or $1 million for every year a Pakistani doctor will spend in prison for helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden.

While the cut represents a small fraction of U.S. aid to Pakistan, the 30-0 vote in favor of the amendment from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) highlights the tension between the two countries sparked by Wednesday's sentencing in Pakistan of Shakil Afridi on treason charges by a tribal court. 

Afridi used a vaccination drive to try to get DNA samples from people inside the compound where bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan. While he was unsuccessful, U.S. officials say he helped an intelligence program that led to the killing of bin Laden. 

“This conviction says to me that al Qaeda is viewed by the court to be Pakistan,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said during the markup. “I don't know which side of the war Pakistan is on. This makes me seriously question our financial support to Pakistan.”

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Added Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), “If this is cooperation, I would hate like heck to see opposition.”

And Graham called Pakistan a “schizophrenic” ally, which has suffered the worst losses at the hands of Islamic militants while at the same time harboring the Haqqani network and other groups.

He warned that Pakistan will lose “substantial funding” if an agreement can't be reached on reopening the NATO supply routes. Pakistan has asked for $5,000 per truck — up from $200 per truck before the November air strike — which the United States says is unacceptable.

“I do not expect America to sit on the sidelines and watch these negotiations become extortion,” he said.

Tensions between the United States and Pakistan were already high following the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers last year and the subsequent closing of NATO supply routes to Afghanistan. 

The cut represents about 4 percent of the $800 million set aside for Pakistan next fiscal year, including $250 million in foreign military aid and another $50 million for Pakistan's counterinsurgency efforts. The original $800 million was already far below the $2.3 billion the Obama administration is requesting for Pakistan.

The funding is part of a $52.1 billion fiscal 2013 foreign aid and operations spending bill that cleared the committee 29-1, with only Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) objecting.

The committee also voted 18-12 to reinstate funding for international family planning efforts, setting up a clash with the House.