© 2024
NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bin Laden Raid Sparks New Crisis With Pakistan


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

The killing of Osama bin Laden has sparked a new crisis in relations between the United States and Pakistan. Those relations were already pretty strained and now the head of Pakistan's army has said he will not tolerate another covert American operation in his country.

In the United States, some lawmakers say they do not want to continue aiding Pakistan if it cannot provide better cooperation. And even as everybody talks, operations go on. The U.S. carried out a drone strike today near Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. And according to the Associated Press, the operation killed eight people.

We have more on this story, this morning, from NPR's Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Senator John Kerry opened a hearing yesterday urging everyone to remember the big picture as they delve into the many troubling questions about U.S.-Pakistani relations.

Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat, Massachusetts): There are few countries as important to our national security, right now, as Pakistan. And the momentous events of the last week brought that into very sharp focus.

KELEMEN: Even before the operation that killed bin Laden, the relationship was fragile, Kerry said, and anti-Americanism high. Going forward, the Massachusetts Democrat suggested that the U.S. should act thoughtfully.

Sen. KERRY: We rely on each other for intelligence, and often we work together to act on it. And we have some space in Pakistan to conduct drone strikes which have killed significant terrorists, significant leaders, perhaps 16 of the 20 top leaders of al-Qaida, all of whom we know were still plotting against the United States.

KELEMEN: Like Kerry, administration officials have been careful not to criticize Pakistan too much in public. A former national intelligence officer, Paul Pillar, told a Washington think tank called the National Interest, this week, that the U.S. is taking the right approach.

Mr. PAUL PILLAR: In private, I assume the dialogue henceforth on all kinds of issues of importance to us, particularly with regard to Pakistani relations with the Haqqani group and the Afghan Taliban, will be one in which it is clearly understood by both sides in the room that, you know, they owe us. And we have no intention of publicly rubbing their noses in this particular bit of dirt, but we do expect more cooperation and this does constitute some leverage.

KELEMEN: And the U.S. should use that leverage to try to convince Pakistan to break connections with terrorist groups, says Daniel Markey of the Council on Foreign Relations, who spoke in a conference call with reporters.

Mr. DANIEL MARKEY (Council on Foreign Relations): This behavior by Pakistan needs to change. And the demonstration effect of American power and capacity to go after bin Laden, to do so without Pakistani assistance and completely catch them by surprise, should suggest to them our capacity to do this in other instances. Now is the moment to press the fight against these groups to convince the Pakistanis that the time has come for a change.

KELEMEN: Senator Kerry concedes there are limits to America's influence in Pakistan. But�he told his colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee that the U.S. can't walk away now.

Sen. KERRY: The real conflict is not between the United States and Pakistan, but within Pakistan itself. The battle is over what sort of nation Pakistan will become.

KELEMEN: One dominated by extremists or a more moderate and tolerant democracy. The U.S. clearly has interests in promoting the latter and Kerry is suggesting that the U.S. should promote that by reaching beyond government officials. That's the kind of policy Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she's seeking as well. She was asked about Pakistan on her trip to Rome this week.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (Department of State): It is not always an easy relationship. You know that. But on the other hand, it is a productive one for both of our countries, and we are going to continue to cooperate between our governments, our militaries, our law enforcement agencies - but most importantly, between the American and Pakistani people.

KELEMEN: But maintaining the flow of U.S. aid to Pakistan will be a big challenge for her, given all the mistrust following the U.S. operation against Osama bin Laden.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.