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Obama must go to the mat for Pakistani doctor who helped us find Bin Laden

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This photo taken on July 9, 2010 shows Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi taken in Pakistani tribal area of Jamrud in Khyber region. (AP2012)

In 2006, then-President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan offered a startling revelation. A senior US official, he claimed, had “said that after the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States threatened to bomb his country if it did not cooperate with America's war campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

Lots of things have changed in Washington since 9/11, but being serious about waging war on Al Qaeda is not one of them. But apparently some in Islamabad didn’t get the memo.

According to several news organizations, the Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA locate Usama bin Laden has been sent to prison.

The New York Times reports “[a] tribal court sentenced Shakil Afrid to 33 years in jail and fined him $3,500….”

“Pakistan should be finding and prosecuting the individuals who helped harbor bin laden all of those years NOT the people who helped us track the world’s most wanted terrorist.”

- Lisa Curtis, Heritage Foundation analyst

“Outrageous,” declared Heritage Foundation analyst Lisa Curtis, who has been following the US-Pakistani relationship closely for many years. “Pakistan should be finding and prosecuting the individuals who helped harbor Usama Bin Laden all of those years, NOT the people who helped us track the world’s most wanted terrorist.”

This outrage is particularly galling coming on the heels of the debacle at the NATO summit in Chicago. President Obama decided to play nice and engineered a last minute invitation to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.

The White House had hoped to use the occasion to trumpet an agreement to reopen the supply lines into Afghanistan, but at the last minute the Pakistanis decided to up the price and reportedly demand up to a thirty fold increase in transit fees. 

The U.S. balked. 

Nothing happened, and Obama looked pretty silly.

These slights would not be so serious if they did not come at the end of long list of gripes.

Pakistan has done little to rein in the Al Qaeda affiliates in the country who not only keep bin Laden’s dream alive, but organize attacks to kill Americans in Afghanistan. Further, Pakistan still can’t explain why their country is the preferred vacation destination for high-level Taliban leaders.

Rather than make amends for bad behavior, Pakistan is demanding more from the U.S. while it delivers less and less.

If President Obama is serious about leaving Afghanistan and not having the whole thing melt down in a bloody mess, he is going to have to get Pakistan to become a constructive regional player. That won’t happen if Islamabad thinks it can continue to play Washington for a patsy.

President Obama will have to go to the mat for Shakil Afrid and his family—and not just because it is the right thing to do. If America lets this insult and injustice stand, where will it all end?

James Jay Carafano is vice president of foreign and defense policy studies  The Heritage Foundation. Follow him on Twitter @JJCarafano.