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In Testy Exchange, Democratic Senator Demands Benchmarks Before Aid to Pakistan

Sen. Bob Menendez

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez sharply told President Obama's special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Tuesday that he does not think Pakistanis have done enough to help the fight against Al Qaeda, and presently he will not support funding for the Muslim nation.

In a testy exchange, Menendez told Richard Holbrooke he does not think the Obama administration has developed a comprehensive strategy for Pakistan that addresses military, diplomatic, economic, intelligence and law enforcement elements or the rule of law. He said he wants to see measures of success and benchmarks before he can support the aid plan.

"So do we need a comprehensive plan? What is it? What is our strategy, a comprehensive strategy? And should we not have benchmarks here to make sure we don't continue in the one step forward, two steps back?" Menendez said.

The New Jersey lawmaker also complained that the Pakistanis are not upholding their end of the bargain. 

"The Pakistanis have, in my mind, a series of one step forward, two steps backwards. You know? They rushed their troops to the Indian border when their own sovereignty is being besieged by the elements within their country. They make a deal to (go) in the Swat region ... which was not, I believe, in their interests nor in ours. You have our director of CIA going to what was supposed to be a private, secret meeting, having a videotape released of him. You wonder whether the Pakistanis are on the same page as us or they are only there when, in fact, pressure is exerted in their own national interest as well as ours," Menendez said.

The Obama administration is seeking $7.5 billion over the next five years to aid Pakistan. The top members on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., introduced legislation last week that would provide the funding, starting with $1.5 billion next year. 

But Menendez said Tuesday that he does not believe the $12 billion already spent in Pakistan has been wisely used. 

"You're asking us for money without telling us you're going to have benchmarks, you're going to have accountability," he said. 

Holbrooke then said that the U.S. can not run Pakistan, the world's second largest Muslim nation, but it can help "the civilian development and economic issues" that will "help them strengthen democracy."

"I don't believe that $12 billion later that we are ignoring -- we have been ignoring Pakistan. If $12 billion later you would tell any U.S. taxpayer that we had been ignoring Pakistan, they would probably bristle at the idea," Menendez said. 

"So there is going to have to be some give and take here if you want the support of some of us who have been supportive along the way but are just not here for a blank check. I said that in the previous administration. And as much as I respect this one, I believe the same standards have to be applied," he continued.

"I'm deeply troubled by what you said... ,"  Holbrooke interrupted.

"I'm deeply troubled by where we're at, and I don't get a sense of reassurance from you," Menendez fired back. 

Holbrooke cited the recent report by the Government Accountability Office, saying it covered the activities of the last administration.

Menendez should not seek to "penalize" the Obama administration, Holbrooke said.

Menendez denied any interest in penalizing the Obama administraion, but added, "I don't want to continue the history we have seen here. And maybe you can come to my office to discuss it further if you want my support, because it's not there right now."

Holbrooke accepted the invitation and struck a more conciliatory tone.

"We do have benchmarks." he said, explaining that Director of National Intelligence, former Admiral Dennis Blair is working them out with House and Senate committees.

FOX News' James Rosen contributed to this report.