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Sights set on U.S. aid to Pakistan

Pakistani and Bangladeshi who fled Libya, raise their arms to get a meal during a food distribution in a camp at the Tunisia-Libya border post of Ras Jedir on March 3, 2011.

Tess Vigeland: The country where Osama bin Laden had been hiding out has received more than $18 billion in U.S. aid since 2002. In 2009, Congress approved another five-year package of development aid for Pakistan. In return, Pakistan was supposed to help in the war against terror.

Now that we know Osama bin Laden was living within miles of Pakistan's Military Academy, questions are being raised about whether U.S. financial support should come with more strings attached. Marketplace's John Dimsdale has that story from Washington.


John Dimsdale: It turns out that for several years, bin Laden was living in relative luxury in a compound built especially for him near a major Pakistani military installation. Today, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Michigan's Carl Levin, said Pakistan's leaders will have to answer how the world's number one terrorist was able to hold out there for so long.

Carl Levin: I hope that the president of Pakistan, Zardari, will follow through and ask some very tough questions of his own military and his own intelligence. They got a lot of explaining to do.

Some in Congress are asking whether the U.S. should carry through with its multi-year package of development aid for Pakistan's military, as well as for schools and power plants. Professor Leila Hudson at the University of Arizona says bin Laden's killing should make us rethink the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.

Leila Hudson: We have been feeding the hand that bites us.

Hudson says Pakistani leaders have long used the presence of terrorists to keep aid flowing, with no interest in actually catching them. But Michael O'Hanlon at the Brookings Institution says the U.S. has no alternative.

Michael O'Hanlon: The way I describe it is that we're in a bad marriage but we don't have any right of divorce; we don't have any option of divorce. We have too many common security interests.

Interests like fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and keeping Pakistan's nuclear arsenal in the hands of moderates. At the Center for Global Development, Nancy Birdsall says aid shouldn't be thought of as a reward for good behavior.

Nancy Birdsall: Aid does not buy love; it does not even provide leverage, frankly.

Birdsall says aid has to be thought of as an investment over the long run for a stable, more prosperous Pakistan.

Birdsall: And certainly it's an investment that's worth making if it reduces the risk of spending billions later on security or on military intervention.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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