A Pakistani court imposed a 33-year sentence Wednesday on a doctor who assisted the CIA in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, prompting dismay among U.S. officials and warnings that the punishment will exacerbate strained relations and could lead to cuts in aid.Does Obama care? Of course not:
Shakil Afridi, 48, a government surgeon in the semiautonomous Khyber Agency along the border with Afghanistan, was convicted of treason for using a vaccination drive to try to gather DNA samples from the Abbottabad compound where bin Laden was in hiding.
Afridi failed to obtain the samples and didn’t know the target of the program, but U.S. officials said he nonetheless contributed to an intelligence operation that culminated in the May 2, 2011, killing of bin Laden by a Navy SEAL team.
U.S. officials depicted Afridi as a patriot and said his actions saved both Pakistani and American lives. But in Pakistan, where the U.S. incursion deep into the country led to national hand-wringing and anger, Afridi was widely excoriated as a traitor.
The CIA declined to comment Wednesday on Afridi’s sentence. But a senior U.S. official with knowledge of counterterrorism operations in Pakistan said the surgeon “was never asked to spy on Pakistan.”
“He was asked only to help locate al-Qaeda terrorists, who threaten Pakistan and the U.S.,” the official said. “His activities were not treasonous; they were heroic and patriotic.”
Pentagon spokesman George Little said, “Anyone who helped the United States find bin Laden was working against al-Qaeda and not against Pakistan.”
In a joint statement, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the ranking Republican on the committee, called the sentence “shocking and outrageous” and urged Pakistan to pardon Afridi and release him immediately.
“What Dr. Afridi did is the furthest thing from treason. It was a courageous, heroic and patriotic act, which helped to locate the most wanted terrorist in the world — a mass murderer who had the blood of many innocent Pakistanis on his hands,” the senators said.
They warned that “Dr. Afridi’s continuing imprisonment and treatment as a criminal will only do further harm to U.S.-Pakistani relations, including diminishing Congress’s willingness to provide financial assistance to Pakistan.”
One of the charges against Afridi was cooperating in a war against the state. In realilty, however, Afridi cooperated in a war against al Qaeda and the Taliban. He cooperated in a war against Pakistan only to the extent that the interests of Pakistan and those of al Qaeda and the Taliban are aligned. And that’s the problem — they are to some extent. Alignment to any extent should be unacceptable to the U.S.What's worse is that Obama outed the doctor in the first place. Used him. Outed him. Then let him hang. What a jerk. Good luck getting any human intel in the future, pal.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration doesn’t seem to agree. Recently, as the outrageous proceedings against Afridi were moving ahead, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan met with Pakistani officials and reported that U.S. relations with Pakistan are “poised to improve.” Improvement in this context would mean a return to Islamabad’s double-dealing, as it balances the interests of the world’s worst terrorist organizations against the interests of the U.S., or rather against Pakistan’s interest in stringing the U.S. along.
President Obama made the decision at the outset of his administration to tilt towards Pakistan and away from India. This move was consistent with his penchant for favoring nations that are “less like America.” But now it’s time for a more serious, more conventional South Asia policy.
The U.S. should stop giving aid to Pakistan. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher has it right: “Any money that goes to Islamabad will continue to end up in the pockets of people actively and deadly hostile to America.”
At least the Senate is putting its money where its mouth is, immediately voting to cut aid to Pakistan in response to this outrage. How much you wanna bet Obama lobbies hard against that cut?
Bryan Preston calls it right in this case:
Pakistan’s response: Telling the US to butt out of its affairs. Pakistan harbored bin Laden for years and has double-dealt throughout the long war on Islamist terrorism. Its initial reaction to the raid that got bin Laden was to howl in pain, and then sidle up to China.Indeed.
Perhaps it’s time we respect Pakistan’s wish to its logical conclusion and cut off all aid altogether.
The failure to protect Afridi from Pakistani injustice is a serious stain on the Obama administration. It send the message worldwide that trusting and helping the Americans is a losing bet.