By Ramsey Cox - 07/17/12 03:10 PM EDT
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he had enough support to force a vote on his measure to end all aid to Pakistan if the government there fails to release a doctor who aided American forces in the tracking of Osama bin Laden.
“If Dr. Afridi is still in jail next week, I will force this vote,” Paul said on the floor Tuesday morning.
U.S. intelligence agents credit Shakil Afridi with aiding their search for the fugitive al Qaeda leader, who was eventually killed in a 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
“Pakistan has now imprisoned this doctor for 33 years,” Paul said. “And what did President Obama do, he sent them another billion dollars ... they disrespected us and what do we do we send them another billion dollars last week.”
While Islamabad said they could not try Afridi on his ties to the CIA, he was eventually sentenced to 33 years in prison for alleged links to a militant commander.
“We’re borrowing over a $1 trillion a year ... and yet they’re still sending money to dictators overseas that disrespect us,” Paul said. “I will one way or another get a vote on this if they continue to hold this doctor.”
The killing of bin Laden by U.S. special forces and an unrelated errant NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani troops, strained relations between the U.S. government and Pakistan.
The Obama administration and many lawmakers are reluctant to cut funds for Pakistan: the nation is seen as a key ally in maintaining peace in neighboring Afghanistan and for its assistance in operations against terror groups.
But many GOP lawmakers expressed anger that bin Laden had been found in Pakistan and over Afridi’s sentence for aiding American forces.
The Senate appropriators voted unanimously earlier this year to cut aid for Pakistan by $33 million, one million for every year of Afridi’s sentence.
Pakistan recently reopened important U.S. military supply lines into Afghanistan, which had been blocked since the November NATO airstrike, after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologized for the deaths of the Pakistani troops.