Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Senate committee cuts Pakistan aid over conviction

WASHINGTON — A Senate panel expressed outrage Thursday over Pakistan's conviction of a doctor who helped the United States track down Osama bin Laden, voting to cut aid to Islamabad by $33 million — $1 million for every year of the physician's 33-year sentence for high treason.

The punitive move came on top of deep reductions the Appropriations Committee already had made to President Barack Obama's budget request for Pakistan, a reflection of the growing congressional anger over its cooperation in combatting terrorism. The overall foreign aid budget for next year had slashed more than half of the proposed assistance and threatened further reductions if Islamabad failed to open overland supply routes to U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Pushing aside any diplomatic talk, Republicans and Democrats criticized Pakistan a day after the conviction in Pakistan of Shakil Afridi. The doctor ran a vaccination program for the CIA to collect DNA and verify bin Laden's presence at the compound in Abbottabad where U.S. commandos found and killed the al-Qaida leader in May 2011.

"We need Pakistan, Pakistan needs us, but we don't need Pakistan double-dealing and not seeing the justice in bringing Osama bin Laden to an end," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who pushed for the additional cut in aid.

The Appropriations Committee approved Graham's amendment to cut the assistance by $33 million on a 30-0 vote. The full Senate will vote on the overall bill, possibly this summer.

Drone strike kills suspected militants: A U.S. drone struck militant hide-outs in northwestern Pakistan for the second consecutive day Thursday, despite public calls by the Pakistani government to halt the covert CIA campaign.

Estimates varied on the number of fatalities in Thursday's strike. Seven to 10 people suspected of being militants were believed to have died, government officials and locals said.

A strike Wednesday in a nearby area killed four suspected militants.

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