updated 5/14/2009 4:50:16 PM ET 2009-05-14T20:50:16

Senators on Thursday linked U.S. aid to Pakistan to whether the nation denounces and battles extremists who have threatened security in its northwest and displaced tens of thousands of refugees.

At issue is about $700 million that Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Democrat, said would, in part, pay to help Pakistan fight insurgents.

"If Pakistan makes this fight against the extremists their own fight then the United States should be willing to help Pakistan achieve a more stable and secure future," Levin told Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, Joint Chiefs chairman, at a Senate hearing on the military's budget for next year.

"But we can't buy their support for our cause, or appear to do so, since that would play into the hands of their and our enemy," Levin said. "We can and should support their cause assuming it is aligned with ours, of course, and if they make their case openly and clearly to their public."

Gates agreed. "The government does understand the nature of the threat to it and is prepared to deal with that threat," he said.

Aid for refugees
Mullen also noted heightened attention among Pakistanis that extremists pose a serious threat. Still, he cited Pakistan's longtime focus on India as its top threat, and said questions remain about whether Pakistan's military will continue to fight extremists for a long time.

"Historically, they haven't done that," Mullen said. "So right now, I'm encouraged by what's happened, but I certainly withhold any judgment about where it goes because of the historic lack of sustainment, and they know they need to do that."

Gates also told Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent, that the U.S. would provide some aid — although it was not clear how much — for the tens of thousands who have been displaced from Pakistan's Swat valley as a result of the fighting.

Sen. John McCain, top Republican on the panel, said he is encouraged by the Obama administration's plans for Pakistan and Afghanistan. But he said more work needs to be done, and quickly, to coordinate military and U.S. civilian efforts to help stabilize both nations, particularly along their shared border where al-Qaida and insurgent allies are believed to be hiding.

McCain said the war in Afghanistan "and in Pakistan, is one that we can and must win, but for years now we've been fighting without a clear strategy, with insufficient resources and with less than total support of the government of Pakistan."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments