One thing the United States can do to persuade Pakistan to rethink imprisoning a doctor who helped find Osama Bin Laden is to issue strongly worded statements; another is to cut military aid. The U.S. is doing both after Wednesday's news that Pakistan had sentenced Dr. Shakil Afridi to 33 years in prison for helping set up the raid in which Navy SEALs killed Bin Laden last May.
On the face of it, the aid cut sounds like a more serious move, but it's not necessarily. As Politico's David Rogers reports, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted on Thursday to cut Pakistan's aid package by $33 million: A million for every year of Afridi's prison sentence. But that cut, symbolic as it is, comes one day after the committee voted to slash aid to Pakistan by nearly two thirds, Rogers notes. "President Barack Obama had proposed $2.27 billion, while the committee had recommended only $800.3 million for the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1."
Meanwhile, some of the strong words are getting stronger, with U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher telling The Guardian's Chris McGreal, "This is decisive proof Pakistan sees itself as being at war with us." Senators John McCain and Carl Levin were a little more measured, but no less displeased in a joint statement they issued: "At a time when the US and Pakistan need more than ever to work constructively together, Afridi's continuing imprisonment and treatment as a criminal will only do further harm to US-Pakistani relations, including diminishing Congress's willingness to provide financial assistance to Pakistan."
There's another card left to play in the strong-statements suit: The White House has yet to issue one, holding out hope that the legal maneuvering is not over.