After bin Laden’s Death, US Congress in Dilemma: Cut Aid to Pakistan?

A man celebrates with a crowd in New York Times Square after the announcement of Osama bin Laden's death. The fact that the al-Qaida leader lived in Pakistan for years has prompted calls for the United States to cut aid to the country. Photo by: Jose Pesavento / CC BY

The fact that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was living in Pakistan for years before his death on Sunday (May 1) has prompted calls for the United States to cut aid to the country. Although most lawmakers have so far refrained from calling publicly for severe cuts, and many have warned of alienating a crucial ally in the global fight against terrorism, cuts to the massive aid spending approved over the past few years seem possible as lawmakers continue drafting a fiscal 2012 budget in the coming months.

Here’s what members of Congress have said on the issue, according to Agence France-PressePolitico, the Press Trust of IndiaThe Associated Press, The Hill and The Miami Herald:

“I think we need more engagement, not less. Al-Qaida and other extremist groups have made Pakistan a target. … Having a robust partnership with Pakistan is critical to breaking the back of al-Qaida and the rest of them.”  House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)

“Now this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have oversight and I’m willing to do that. But we will have federal assistance.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

“We need to understand exactly what it is the Pakistanis did and didn’t know as far as the situation that unfolded this weekend, and the years leading up to that.”  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.)

“[It’s] difficult to imagine that some elements of the Pakistani government didn’t have some idea of what was going on at compound bin Laden. But we need Pakistan’s cooperation and assistance on a range of critical efforts. The U.S. relationship with Pakistan is far from perfect, but it is important.” - Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee

“[I have] grave concerns about Pakistan and I will be reviewing it.” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on State, foreign operations and related programs

“My opposition to the program 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.” – Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on State, foreign operations and related Programs

“I don’t know whether it would be effective or counterproductive, we’ll have to look at that. It needs to be looked into.” House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)

“[We should] reconsider and reevaluate our policy toward Pakistan, and that includes the issue of funding.”  Rep. Steve Chabot(R-Ohio), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia

“Our government is in fiscal distress. To make contributions to a country that isn’t going to be fully supportive is a problem for many.” – Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

“I thought that aid has been misplaced. We just give them money - who knows where it goes.” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee

“I think you have to be careful before cutting off aid, because the country is vital to us, and we need to find ways to strengthen the pro-Western factions in Pakistan and weaken those who are anti-Western and pro-Taliban.”  Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee

“You can’t be coming to Congress and asking for $3 billion after what happened and expect to get it without serious, serious questions being asked and the relationship being reanalyzed.”  Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee

“This tells us once again that unfortunately Pakistan, at times, is playing a double-game, and that’s very troubling to me.” – Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

“The United States provides billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan. Before we send another dime, we need to know whether Pakistan truly stands with us in the fight against terrorism. Until Congress and the American public are assured that the Pakistani government is not shielding terrorists, financial aid to Pakistan should be suspended.” Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)


“There are already are conditions and there could be more, but the fact is that Pakistan is a situation which none of us are happy with but we have to improve it rather than abandon it.” – Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

“I don’t think we can borrow money from China and give it to anybody; I don’t think that makes any sense.”  Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

“You can’t trust them, and you can’t abandon them. … We’re broke. It’s hard to go back to South Carolina and say, ‘Give aid to Pakistan.’”  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

“We should freeze all aid to Pakistan until we have assurances that the Pakistani government is not in the business of harboring terrorists.” – Rep. Vern Buhanan (R-Fla.)

“You probably got some bad apples in there, I’m sure, and you got some good people. And bin Laden being that close to a military installation really is troubling, but you have to look at the overall picture.”  Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.)

“My position is we need to know where Pakistan stands in the world of terror.”  Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas)

“I think it is quite clear that unless we get a clear explanation of what the Government of Pakistan knew about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, all foreign aid from American taxpayers to this nation needs to cease.” – Rep. Allan West (R-Fla.)

Eliza Villarino contributed reporting.

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  • Rolf Rosenkranz

    Rolf Rosenkranz oversees a talented team of in-house journalists, correspondents and guest contributors located around the globe. Since joining Devex in early 2008, Rolf has been instrumental in growing its fledgling news operation into the leading online source for global development news and analysis. Previously, Rolf was managing editor at Inside Health Policy, a subscription-based news service in Washington. He has reported from Africa for the Johannesburg-based Star and its publisher, Independent News & Media, as well as the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a German daily.