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Entries in U.S. Senators (1)

Wednesday
Jun152011

US Senators Question Alliance with Pakistan over Informant Arrests

Media and local residents gather outside the hideout of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following his death by U.S. Special Forces in a ground operation in Abbottabad on May 3, 2011. AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The American sailors who buried Osama bin Laden at sea came home Wednesday and were greeted as heroes. Not so for the half-dozen or so Pakistanis vital to the mission, whose reward was detention by Pakistan's top spy agency.

In Congress Wednesday, there was palpable outrage at a putative ally that receives more than $2 billion a year in U.S. aid.

"How long do we support governments that lie to us? When do we say, 'Enough is enough'?" Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Wednesday at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. "They arrested people who helped us get him."

Gates prompted laughter with his response.

"First of all, I would say, based on 27 years in CIA and four-and-a-half years in this job, most governments lie to each other," he said. "That's the way business gets done."

Humor aside, the implications of the arrests could be serious, according to former U.S. counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke.

"If the U.S. doesn't have local Pakistani informants, then it's going to be very, very difficult for the United States to stage operations inside Pakistan," Clarke said. "And that's exactly what the Pakistani government wants, for it to be very difficult for the Americans to be able to do this again."

Informants are crucial to U.S. counter-terrorism efforts. It is informants on the ground, usually locals, who provide tips on an enemy target. While information can come by tapping in to cellphone calls and texts, informants can help track and back up what technical monitoring provides. Informants can provide eyes on the ground if a drone strike is called in or a secret raid is conducted to make certain the human target is inside and innocents are not.

The U.S. certainly has leverage over Pakistan. It provides about $2 billion a year in military aid. But even so, this drama is not over.

The U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, told the Senate hearing that although the relationship with Pakistan is complicated, not dealing with the Pakistanis would likely mean the U.S. would be out of the picture in Pakistan -- where the Afghan Taliban is believed to have regrouped -- for another five to 10 years. He added that the U.S. is in the midst of building a relationship with Pakistan, which was "badly broken" in the '80s and '90s.

Mullen said that "some of the criticism is more than warranted" when it comes to the relationship with Pakistan.

"Nobody's worked that harder than me, very frankly, with the leadership -- and it's a conscious decision, I think, that we have to make," he said. "If we walk away from it, it's my view it'll be a much more dangerous place a decade from now, and we'll be back."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio