Pakistan amongst most violent, unstable nations
WASHINGTON: Republican presidential candidates have criticised Pakistan, calling it one of the most violent and unstable nations but remained sharply divided over whether the US should continue to provide aid to Islamabad.
While Texas governor vowed to cut down US aid to Pakistan to zero till it helped US meet its national security interests against terrorists, two other Republican candidates Jon Huntsman andNewt Gingrich argued in favour of more drone attacks against terrorists inside Pakistan.
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, however, argued in favour of continued engagement with Pakistan given that it was a nuclear weapon state.
"Pakistan is a concern. That's the country that ought to keep everybody up at night. You have not (Pak) President (Asif Ali) Zardari in charge but (its Army Chief) General (Ashfaq Pervez) Kayani, over the military, which also is responsible for the ISI.
"You've got the youngest demographic of 160 million people in Pakistan. You've got a madrassa movement," Huntsman said.
"You've got over 100 nuclear weapons. You've got trouble on the border. You've got a nation-state that is a candidate for failure. I say it's a haven for bad behaviour, it's a haven for training the people who seek to do us harm," Huntsman said adding that he was in favour of expanding drone program which would serve US national interests.
Acknowledging that Pakistan has been "the epicentre of dealing with terrorism" Congresswoman Bachmann said that the country has training centres for terrorist outfits.
"They also are one of the most violent, unstable nations that there is," she said.
A member of the intelligence committee in the House of Representatives, she said 15 of the nuclear sites in Pakistan are available or are potentially penetrable by jihadists.
"Six attempts have already been made on nuclear sites. This is more than an existential threat," Bachmann said.
"We have to take this very seriously. The US has to be engaged. It is complicated. We have to recognise that the Chinese are doing everything that they can to be an influential party in Pakistan. We don't want to lose influence," she said.
"...A nation that lies, that does everything possibly that you could imagine wrong -- at the same time, they do share intelligence data with us regarding al-Qaida," she said.
"We need to demand more. The money that we are spending right now is primarily intelligence money to Pakistan. It is helping the US," Bachmann said thus arguing that it was not in the national security interest to snap ties with Pakistan.
"At this point I would continue that aid, but I do think that the Obama policy of keeping your fingers crossed is not working in Pakistan," she said.
However, Texas governor Rick Perry advocated against any aid to Pakistan.
"Until Pakistan clearly shows that they have America's best interests in mind, I would not send them one penny," he vowed.
But Bachmann still argued in favour of engaging Pakistan as the consequences otherwise would be very dangerous for the US.
"We have to recognise what's happening on the ground. There are nuclear weapons all across this nation, and potentially al-Qaida could get a hold of these weapons," she said.
Perry said that US needs to engage in India and Afghanistan.
"We've got Afghanistan and India working in concert right now to leverage Pakistan," he said.
"I think if we would create a trade zone in that part of the world, where you have all of those countries working together, that may be the answer to getting Pakistan to understand that they have to work with all of the countries in that region," the texas governor said.
Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, took a tough approach against Pakistan.
"You tell the Pakistanis: Help us, or get out of the way, but don't complain if we kill people you're not willing to go after on your territory where you have been protecting them," he said.