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Chambliss: Pakistan Must ‘Get Serious,’ Deliver Mullah Omar, Zawahiri

May 3, 2011 at 6:53 PM EDT
The Senate voted unanimously Tuesday to congratulate U.S. troops and the intelligence community for the assault that killed Osama bin Laden, but the incident also put the future of U.S.-Pakistani relations in question. Gwen Ifill discusses the countries' strained ties with Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Mark Udall, D-Colo.

GWEN IFILL: At the U.S. Capitol, the Senate voted unanimously today to congratulate the troops and the intelligence community for the assault that killed bin Laden.

But there is far less agreement on what the episode means for the U.S. relationship with its uncertain ally, Pakistan.

We get views on that now from members of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committee: Saxby Chambliss, Republican from Georgia, and Mark Udall, Democrat from Colorado.

Gentlemen, welcome.

And, Sen. Chambliss, I want to start with you.

What questions, if any, do you have tonight for the Pakistani government?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, R-Ga.: Well, I think, certainly, we need to know what they knew and when they knew it. I mean, gee whiz, you have got the No. 1 terrorist in the world living in your country for some period of time in an area that’s surrounded by the Pakistani military, surrounded by the ISI, their intelligence service over there, and they didn’t know he was there?

It — it raises questions about, number one, were they sharing all of the information that they had with us? And, secondly, if they’re going to sit around and deny this, as they have done this afternoon, then what kind of military do they have? Is it one that we can really rely on as a partner? What kind of intelligence service do they have? And can we really rely on the information that they give us?

So, there are just an awful lot of questions surrounding this.

I just want to say that I am so proud of the intelligence community and so proud of those men who risked their lives to carry out this mission. Wow. What a great job they did.

GWEN IFILL: Sen. Udall, do you have the same misgivings that your colleague does?

SEN. MARK UDALL, D-Colo.: I do. And I want to add my full-throated support of the intelligence community and the men in the military as well.

But either the Pakistani government is incompetent or in cahoots. We have to ask questions, I believe, in public settings, as well as in classified settings. This may be an opportunity to reset our relationship with Pakistan.

We invest $3 billion in Pakistan every year. I think the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Chambliss, would agree that Pakistan is too big to fail, 180 million Muslims. But there have to be consequences.

And this was a very, very serious situation. And thank God we finally saw that justice was served in Pakistan on bin Laden.

GWEN IFILL: Sen. Chambliss, I know you were — I mean, Sen. Udall, I believe, you were just in a meeting with CIA Director Panetta. And you got a briefing with — along with some other senators. I know Sen. Chambliss has had his own briefing.

Did you feel like the — this administration is tackling those questions about Pakistan?

SEN. MARK UDALL: The administration is beginning to tackle those questions. And I know, on the Senate side, we will. We’re going to hold some hearings and be briefed tomorrow.

And these are crucial questions. We went in to Afghanistan to find bin Laden, to bring him to justice. We have a lot at stake in this part of the world. And if the Pakistanis are going to play both sides of the street, we need to be knowledgeable of that. And, again, there have to be some consequences.

But perhaps we can use this as a moment to come clean. And when I say us, I mean the Pakistanis come clean, so we can finish the job in Afghanistan. That’s, after all, our goal, is to hand off the — Afghanistan to the Afghan people as soon as we possibly can.

Now, the opening may be that bin Laden had ties to the Taliban and Mullah Omar. He had a larger-than-life personality, and maybe that now the exit ramp, which is a political settlement in Afghanistan, is more in reach.

GWEN IFILL: Sen. Chambliss, we heard in Margaret’s piece President Zardari’s defense, which is that Pakistan has more to lose, at least as much to lose as the U.S. on the terror front and that, in fact, he is the widower of someone who is a victim, Benazir Bhutto, of Osama bin Laden, so there’s no — there was no interest in Pakistan in protecting him.

What do you think of that defense that he offered?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS: Well, we do know that al-Qaida has declared war on Pakistan. And as a result of that, he was right in the editorial in The Washington Post today that they did — terrorists did kill his wife. They have killed a number of Pak civilians, as well as military personnel, over the years.

But we have got to — it’s now the time for Pakistan to get serious. If they want to truly be a democratic country and have the strong kind of military that protects their people within, as well as from without, then they have got to stand up and show that they’re willing to cooperate in the terrorist world by not cooperating with the Haqqani Network, which we know they do, by not cooperating with the Pakistan Taliban, which we have suspicions that they do.

What they could do immediately, if they’re serious about having America as a good and strong partner, is deliver Mullah Omar to us, deliver Zawahri to us, deliver some of the other top members of al-Qaida that we know are hiding in the mountains on the Pak-Afghan border.

GWEN IFILL: Given your — given your…

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS: So, it’s an opportunity for them.

GWEN IFILL: Well, but given your concerns, do you think that those are reasonable requests that can be delivered upon, based on what history tells us about the relationship?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS: Well, certainly, they haven’t done it to this point.

I mean, gosh, going back to the first question you asked about, did they know he was there, if they didn’t know that, then we really do have questions about the competency of their military and the ISI. So, I don’t know whether they can deliver on that or not, but I think it’s a reasonable request. And I think it’s something we ought to ask them to do and see what they say.

GWEN IFILL: Sen. Udall, the one control that Congress has over this situation is the purse strings, the aid that goes to Pakistan. If you are convinced or persuaded that they have not been full partners, is this money that you could imagine pulling — pulling out?

SEN. MARK UDALL: Well, I think we should condition the money going forward.

And I would want to add, Gwen, that the civilian government, I think, is well-intentioned. And I take President Zardari’s comments at their face value, and with the heart — the deeply felt way in which he shares them with us.

But this is really about the Pakistani military and the infamous ISI, their intelligence service. They’ve got to work with us in a true alliance. And we have had some scratchy moments over these last months with them. And — and this is probably the ultimate scratchy moment.

But if they’re not going to come clean, if they’re not going to work with us in ways that we both can be successful in this important alliance, then that money ought to be more conditioned than it is today.

GWEN IFILL: Sen. Chambliss, on the money question?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS: Well, we have got to remember that we went in to a relationship with Pakistan knowing it’s a very corrupt government, knowing that it’s somewhat of a Wild West state, but yet they’re a very important partner in the war in Afghanistan. You can’t decouple Pakistan from Afghanistan.

If Pakistan were to fall, Afghanistan would be shortly behind, and vice versa. So, it’s important that we continue a relationship, but there’s got to be more transparency between our intelligence services. There’s got to be more transparency between our military operations in Afghanistan and their military operations in Pakistan.

And, if they refuse that, then why should we send American taxpayer dollars to them? It shouldn’t be up to American soldiers to go in and take out bin Laden in an area that’s very close to the West Point of Pakistan. The Pak should have done that. They should have known he was there.

And we just have an awful lot of questions that have to be answered, and have to be answered affirmatively. Otherwise, I think there are going to be serious questions about continuing financial aid to Pakistan.

GWEN IFILL: Sen. Udall, let’s talk about that Afghanistan point that Sen. Chambliss just made.

Do you think the events of this week will change our mission, will change the direction, the trajectory of our mission in Afghanistan?

SEN. MARK UDALL: Gwen, time will only tell, but I do think bin Laden’s death provides an opening for the Taliban to think again about joining the government, about being involved in the political processes in Afghanistan.

And I also would, to build on Senator Chambliss’s point, hope that Pakistan will see this as an opportunity to work with the Taliban, with whom they do have connections and do have influence, to drive them to the negotiating table.

But there’s still a lot in the balance here. There’s a — there’s a lot to come forward. The other comment I would make is that Pakistan, at some point, is going to have to come to some resolve and some conclusion with its relationship with India. This drives a lot of Pakistan’s behavior.

They’re always looking over their shoulder. I should say, more accurately, they’re looking forward always at India, to their east, rather than to the west, which is where the true existential threat — threat to Pakistan exists.

So, we can continue to urge and cajole and do everything we possibly can to get India and Pakistan to reach some sort of a detente, so that the Pakistani behavior is driven more by the realities in front of them and the threat to their country from terrorists, not from India.

GWEN IFILL: Sen. Chambliss, what about the Afghanistan question? Do you think that this changes things?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS: Well, I don’t think so with respect to the tactical operation on the field.

Bin Laden was not directing any of the activity from a military standpoint in Afghanistan. Mullah Omar does more of that than — than bin Laden was ever involved in. And that’s why getting him would be important from an Afghan situation.

What it does show is that America never gives up. If you come after us, and you harm America or Americans, we’re never going to give up hunting you down. And every terrorist in the world ought to understand that. We’re going to come — come after them in a relentless way. And we’re going to make sure that, ultimately, we take them out and bring them to justice.

So, I think, from that standpoint, it ought to be a huge morale boost to our military and the Afghan military and the Afghan people that we’re there, and we’re going to continue this fight, and we’re going to hunt down bad guys, and — and we’re going to prevail in this effort.

GWEN IFILL: Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Sen. Mark Udall, Colorado, Georgia, thank you both very much.


SEN. MARK UDALL: Thank you, Gwen.