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Mark Kirk: Favor India, cut aid to Pakistan

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Mark Kirk, Illinois' Republican junior senator, thinks it's time for the United States to tilt toward India and re-think its $4.5 billion-a-year aid to Pakistan.

The way things are going, Kirk doesn't see a happy ending to the Afghanistan war. On a recent two-week tour of duty, he said, he saw "tremendous change" in Afghanistan since he was last there in 2008 because "the Obama surge has worked." But the problem he sees is that when NATO leaves and the United States withdraws its 100,000 troops, the Afghan government could collapse and the jihadists could take over.

The answer, as he sees it? India, a growing power that could use a friendly government in Kabul, should inherit America's military role.

Mark Kirk 72.JPG

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) uses a map Tuesday to discuss the U.S. military's position in Afghanistan. (Rich Hein~Sun-Times)

That won't make Pakistan happy, but Americans need to realize that Islamabad is a major supporter of the Haqqani network, a terror group that has become a dangerous foe of U.S. troops while having its bases in Pakistan protected by that nation's premier intelligence agency. While al-Qaida has been reduced to "a shadow" and the Taliban is weakened, "I did not realize how powerful the Haqqani had become," Kirk told the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board Tuesday.

If NATO and America leave Afghanistan and another nation doesn't assume their roles, "The entire operation for the last 10 years goes belly up," Kirk said.

According to a transcript of a speech he gave earlier Tuesday, Kirk said: "Pakistan has become the main threat to Afghanistan. Pakistan's intelligence service is the biggest danger to the Afghan government. It is also a tremendous threat to the lives of American troops. Let me be clear: Many Americans died in Afghanistan because of Pakistan's ISI [intelligence service]."

The risk of tilting away from Pakistan, of course, is that the nation could go from being an unreliable ally to an outright foe. And though it's smaller than India, Pakistan, like India, has nuclear weapons. Driving jihadists out of Afghanistan doesn't do much good if they simply set up shop in Pakistan.

When asked, Kirk said he did not decide to speak out until he was assured he had the support of others in the government, although he didn't say who they were.

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Rejecting Pakistan in favor of India could be dangerous because the Afghan tribes have strong ethnic ties with Pakistan. Getting Afghanistan to cozy up to India could be a hard sell.

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