WASHINGTON — Just hours after landing in the States following a week-long trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan, House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon and John Kline sounded a warning that Pakistan is putting its U.S. aid package in jeopardy be continuing to jail a U.S. diplomat.
“I think it is imperative that they release him, and there is certainly the possibility that there would be repercussions if they don’t,” Kline said, declining to say he would lead the charge to cut funding or that Pakistan would definitely face a cut but noting that it is “entirely possible” that a member of Congress could offer an amendment to the budget continuing resolution, and that “my guess is that there would be a lot of support for such an amendment, frankly because of the outrage of detaining an American diplomat with diplomatic immunity.”
Raymond Davis, a U.S. employee in Pakistan who holds a diplomatic passport, was arrested there in connection with the deaths of two Pakistanis. Kline and McKeon said Davis was defending himself from two men who approached his vehicle and pointed weapons at him. Davis was armed at the time, and defended himself, they said, from a situation in which he could have easily been killed.
Davis was arrested and is being held in a Pakistani jail in connection with the deaths. Pakistani officials are also exploring charges of forgery, alleging that he used a fake name to acquire a visa to enter the country.
At stake for Pakistan would be the remainder of a five year, $7.5 billion aid package approved in 2009, as well as an additional $2 billion in U.S. military aid that has been proposed by the Obama administration.
A continuing resolution must be passed by the end of March to avoid a government shutdown.
Other items of note:
- Kline and McKeon said they were struck by the progress in the areas of Afghanistan, especially as they toured territory in the Marjah region that had been controlled by Taliban forces a year ago. Neither man, nor Texas Democrat Silvestre Reyes who accompanied them, needed to wearbody armor as they walked down a market street.
- Kline, chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, cut the ribbon on a new elementary school in Marjah. There are 10 teachers for 500 students, spread out throughout a mud brick building and surrounding tent classrooms.
- While in Afghanistan, Kline met with his son, John Daniel Kline, who is serving there as battalion commander of an aviation task force. Kline said he learns a lot from his son, but when asked what he and his son talked about on their visit, he said mostly family stuff — including planning a fishing trip for when the younger Kline returns home.