Interview with Senator Bob Corker

Interview with Senator Bob Corker

By John King, USA - May 18, 2011

KING: Let's get some perspective now from a leading congressional voice on foreign policy. Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator Corker, you're on record saying that you believe Pakistan must be quote "in cahoots or incompetent". The question being did they harbor or protect Osama bin Laden? Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen today being quite adamant saying they have found zero evidence that anybody in the Pakistani leadership knew about this. Do you trust them? Do you believe Secretary Gates?

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Well, you know, to me the issue is this. Look, the Pakistanis are very embarrassed, and at a minimum, we know that to be true. And so to me, John, the question is where do we go from here? You know, for a long time we have known that we had the Haqqani network and LET based in the FATA and Baluchistan areas. And when you travel in Afghanistan and you're in Helmand Province, you're --


CORKER: -- they are incredibly frustrated because they are fighting an enemy being led that's being led in those areas of Pakistan that I was just referring to. And so they are fighting our enemy where they are not and we're giving aid to a country where they are. And so at a minimum, John, it seems to me it's time for us to really alter this relationship. Our relationship with Pakistan is very transactional, but we need to make sure that they are focused on our enemy and the FATA areas and we need to be able to work in a very different way than what we've had, the arrangement we've had in the past.

KING: But to use your term, transactional, $20 billion roughly since the 9/11 attacks have gone from the United States to Pakistan. Much of that aid goes to the military and the security apparatus. There have been many in Congress who've said it's time to either stop that aid or at least put some very tough strings on it. Listen to Secretary Gates here weighing in on that argument. He says Pakistan has already paid a high price.


GATES: If I were in Pakistani shoes, I would say I have already paid a price. I have been humiliated. I have been shown that the Americans can come in here and do this with impunity and I think we have to be -- I think we have to recognize that they see a cost in that and a price that has been paid.


KING: It's a pretty strong pushback there saying don't cut their aid. Will you cut their aid?

CORKER: Well look I am on record as saying there needs to be different strings attached. Listen, John, you know money is fungible. It can make its way into lots of different types of operations and the fact is we haven't had the kind of cooperation regardless of what happened with Osama bin Laden. We haven't had the kind of cooperation that we need.

And so you know this is an opportunity for us to change that relationship and sure, they are humiliated and sure we went in there. They didn't detect us. They say they didn't detect Osama bin Laden, but the bigger issue for us is our strategic interest and their strategic interest are not aligning as they should. And this is a time for us to sit down to get that clear and to get that clear as part of any aid that goes to Pakistan.

To me it only makes sense. We've known for a long, long time that we cannot be successful in Afghanistan as long as the people who are leading the effort against us are based in Pakistan. So let's get this relationship right. Again, it is about money. And our money does alter their behavior and the fact is as you mentioned, we've sent $20 billion there -- over $20 billion actually since 2001. Let's get it right and I think this is an opportunity to do that.

KING: As this plays out, the Pakistani government obviously is well aware of the political conversations here in the United States. The prime minister is in China right now. They have called China a weather tested, a well-tested friend and we are told by intelligent sources that China would like to see the tail of that special operations helicopter that was left, that was exploded in the bin Laden compound. The tail and the other parts of that helicopter have not yet been returned. What do you make of that?

CORKER: I don't know enough about the details of the conversation that are taking place there, but look, you know again Pakistan it's a country that hasn't acted rationally. I mean I think that's a minimum statement you can make about their activities with -- their activities other countries. And again it's now time to sit down, have a mature conversation. Let's understand what each other's goals are and make sure, by the way, they are the same.

We've had witnesses and recently informed relations. I don't know if they are accurate that believe that Pakistan actually wants to see Afghanistan not be a stable country. If that's the case, obviously we have a very different view of the world. And John, it just seems to me that now is the time regardless of push back from the Defense Department, regardless of push back from our Joint Chiefs, now is the time to have that conversation, especially when so many American lives and so much American resource is at stake.

KING: Do you think the administration is blind to this or do they just see no better option --

CORKER: No, I think -- I think that -- I happen to think that we're going to end up doing exactly what I've just laid out here not because I've laid it out. I just think it's the rational thing to do. I think there is a little push back and I think people are worried about maybe things getting a little too carried away rhetorically.

I do understand, by the way, what the politicians inside Pakistan deal with. I mean we do have drones that are flying in their sovereign space shooting and killing people in various parts of Pakistan that we believe to be extremists. I understand how that plays with politicians in their area. I understand when we had a person, one of our CIA operatives that was involved in an accident. I understand how that plays locally.

That still doesn't mean that as it relates to our overall nation's interest, their nation's interest that we should not get that -- that we should not get that aligned when we are giving so much in aid to the country of Pakistan. Again, our relationship has been transactional to -- candidly and we just need to make sure that that transactional relationship is one where our interests are aligned with their interest. Now is the time to do that, not later, right now.

KING: Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, appreciate your time tonight.


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