Interview with Senator Carl Levin

Interview with Senator Carl Levin

By The Situation Room - May 6, 2011

BLITZER: And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Are the Pakistanis helping the United States or hurting the United States in this war on terror?

LEVIN: Both. They are helping in some ways, in terms of protecting some of the fuel that comes into their ports, and for the -- usually helping to get it to Afghanistan through Pakistan. They are helping with some of the military efforts along the border.

Going after their own terrorists probably provide some help. And when I say their own terrorists, I mean the ones that attack Pakistani targets.

But they are also hurting, because they are allowing in their presence terrorists known to them, such as the Haqqani group, and such as the so-called Quetta Shura, which is the Taliban from Afghanistan who make their residence in a town called Quetta in Pakistan. And they do it openly.

So, there's a lot of effort being made, properly, to find out what the leaders of Pakistan knew about the presence of bin Laden, because it sure looks like somebody higher up must have known.

When somebody -- the world's number-one wanted terrorist is kind of at a very, very -- a place that is centralized, close to the military, in a big villa for five years, you would think somebody would know about it. Those questions are important.

But there's, I think, an equally important question. And that is that people who are knowingly attacking us and the Afghans from Pakistani soil, the Haqqani group, and people who are knowingly directing suicide bombers in Afghanistan against us from a location in Pakistan, the city called Quetta. That's all open. That's all known.

BLITZER: It sounds to me like Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban, who has been on the run since 9/11 basically, since the U.S. went into Afghanistan, you're suggesting, correct me if I'm wrong, senator, that elements of the Pakistani military or intelligence, services within the government, they know where Mullah Mohammed Omar is?

LEVIN: I'm not going to pick one person. They know where the heads of the Haqqani network live in North Waziristan. That much we know. They live very openly. They know where the so-called Quetta Shura is located in Quetta. Whether or not that one particular person is known at the moment to the intelligence services or the police or the military in Pakistan, I can't tell you.

But, I can tell you, we had discussions with the president of Pakistan, with the prime minister of Pakistan, asking them, look, you know where the Haqqani leaders are. You know that those people cross the border into Afghanistan and are killing Afghans and killing us. You know that. They don't deny that they know that.

BLITZER: So, you think they're going to do anything about that now in the aftermath of the death of Bin Laden that they will make -- they will find some of these guys like Mullah Mohammed Omar or even Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two al Qaeda leader who is believed to be in Pakistan someplace in Pakistan?

LEVIN: Will they act against people that they know are in -- Pakistan and where they are and know those people are directing efforts across the border? They refuse to do it, so far, although, they don't deny at any moment that they know where the Haqqani group is. They don't deny that. And that's what kind of intrigues me here is that what is important as it is, that we ask questions of the Pakistan leaders as to how is it possible that Bin Laden was there for five years and that, you, folks didn't know about it at the top.

How is that possible? Those questions need to be answered in terms of the future relationship of the United States and Pakistan, but there are other questions which we've already asked of the leaders of Pakistan to which they have no answer other than their army is busy elsewhere. That is not a good enough answer.

BLITZER: Will you continue to vote for a billion or $2 billion or $3 billion a year that the United States provides Pakistan?

LEVIN: I would support parts of it which help us. I will support those parts of it which help reimburse Pakistan for providing security to the fuel that comes through Pakistan and to Afghanistan. There are cost involve (ph). I will support of certain military efforts and the border police in Pakistan where they are taking steps to reduce the flow of terrorists going into Afghanistan.

However, until we get proper answers to how is it that Bin Laden was there for five years without you, folks, knowing about it, at the higher levels, and why do you not act against known terrorists, known to you, known where they live, that are attacking across the border, specifically, the Haqqani group and the Quetta Shura, until we get proper answers to that, I can't support any longer the economic aid portion of the Pakistan aid package.

BLITZER: Here's what worries me, senator. The Pakistan has a nuclear arsenal, maybe 100 nuclear bombs, who knows, how many. If the U.S. were to completely sever its relationship or walk away from Pakistan, I'd be very worried about that nuclear arsenal, at least, some of it getting into the wrong hands.

LEVIN: I agree with you. We should be worried, and we should have a positive relationship with Pakistan, but it's got to be a two- way street. It can't just be that they go after terrorists who attack targets in Pakistan while knowingly allowing other terrorists to have a safe haven in Pakistan, who use that safe haven to attack us across the boarder in Afghanistan. That has got to end. If it doesn't, we've got to find ways of letting Pakistan know that this has got to be a mutual relationship. It can't just be a one-way street.

BLITZER: You heard the chief of the Pakistani military issue a direct warning to the United States. If the U.S. tries it again, invades, violates Pakistani sovereignty, to try to capture or kill terrorist who happens to be in Pakistan, it will have a dramatic disastrous impact on the U.S./Pakistani relationship. Does the U.S. take a threat like that seriously?

LEVIN: Obviously, you have to take any threat seriously, but then, you got to figure out whether you're going to be deterred from acting in your own necessary self-interest by that kind of a threat, and we cannot be deterred from going after people who have killed our people and because they're being located in Pakistan somewhere. We cannot be deterred from acting in our own necessary self-defense, going after people who are out to kill us, because of that kind of a threat.

We, obviously, want to consider it. We want to think about it. We want to talk to Pakistan and see whether or not that's just for external purposes or -- I mean, just for domestic purposes or whether it's for external purposes. A lot of their statements about drone attacks and opposing our drone attacks are made for domestic and internal purposes. They don't tell us personally when we talk to them hey, stop those drone attacks. They say that to their own public for political purposes.

BLITZER: Senator Levin, thanks very much for joining us.

LEVIN: Sure.


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