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Levin and McCain: Don’t pay Pakistan exorbitant trucking fees

Levin and McCain: Don’t pay Pakistan exorbitant trucking fees

The United States should not pay upwards of $5,000 for each truck Pakistan lets through to Afghanistan to aid the war effort, both leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee told The Cable today.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met at this weekend’s NATO summit in Chicago and President Barack Obama met with Zardari in a three-way exchange with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. But the United States and Pakistan were not able to finalize the details of a deal to reopen the ground lines of communication through which the U.S. sends goods to troops in Afghanistan. Those supply lines have been closed since ISAF forces accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in two border outposts last November and refused to apologize for it.

One American official told the New York Times that Pakistan wants "upwards of $5,000" for each truck that crosses through its territory, whereas the fee paid by the United States before last November was about $250 per truck.

"I think that’s called extortion," Senate Armed Services Committee ranking Republican John McCain (R-AZ) told The Cable Tuesday. "We can’t look at aid in that light. It’s now becoming a matter of principle."

Senate Armed Services Committee head Carl Levin (D-MI) told The Cable there’s no way the United States should pay Pakistan fees anywhere near that level.

"Whatever the cost of the security has been, we ought to continue whatever level of support that was. This looks to me to be totally inappropriate," he said.

Levin’s committee is working on the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill this week behind closed doors. That bill could contain new restrictions on U.S. aid to Pakistan.

UPDATE: On Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Appropriations Committee proposed new restrictions on aid to Pakistan in their mark up of the fiscal 2013 State and foreign ops appropriations bill. The bill would withhold all counterinsurgency funds for Pakistan until the Pakistani government reopens the cargo supply lines to Afghanistan.