Despite a chorus of calls from some senior US politicians that aid to Pakistan should be halted or curtailed, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the U.S. should continue to financially help the South Asian nation because it remains of “significant” interest to Washington.
He also said that there was “no evidence” that Islamabad officials knew that Osama bin Laden was living in the country prior to the US commando raid that killed the former al-Qaeda terror chief.
“I think we have to proceed with some caution,” Gates told Congress.
“We do have significant interest in Pakistan. My own view is we need to continue the assistance that we have provided that benefits the Pakistani people.”
Gates said that Pakistani authorities have already been humiliated and embarrassed by the whole bin Laden affair.
If I were in [Pakistan’s] shoes, I've already paid a price. I've been humiliated, I've been shown the Americans can come in here and do this with impunity, he said.
Earlier today, a group of prominent Democratic Senators sent a letter to Gates and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton implroing them to reconsider sending aid to Pakistan.
Gates did, however, concede that somebody in Pakistan must have know nof bin Laden’s whereabouts.
It's my supposition, Gates said at a news conference.
“I think it's a supposition shared by a number in this government, that somebody had to know, but we have no idea who and no proof and no evidence. It's hard to go to them with an accusation when we have no proof that anybody knew.
Both Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen contend that no senior members of Pakistan’s government were aware of bin Laden living just a few miles from the capital Islamabad all these years.
“I have seen no evidence at all that the senior leadership [of Pakistan] knew,” Gates said.
“In fact, I’ve seen some evidence to the contrary.”
Mullen also seemed to take Pakistan’s civilian leadership off the hook.
“I don’t think that we should underestimate the humbling experience that this is, and in fact the internal soul-searching that’s going on inside the Pakistani military right now,” he said.