Harry Reid on U.S.-Pakistan Relations: 'This Isn't the Time to Start Flexing Our Muscles'

By Nicholas Ballasy | May 17, 2011 | 5:46 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said today that America needs a “good relationship” with Pakistan and that “this isn’t the time to start flexing our muscles” with that country. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) agreed.

At a press conference on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Reid said, “I think that we need to be--I don’t think we have to be those that are apologizing for anything that Pakistan did or criticizing them even though there’s plenty to apologize to them--apologize about some of the things they’ve done and to criticize them.”

“I think right now we’re at a very difficult time,” said Reid. “We need to see if we can improve the relationship and there are people working on that now as indicated with the presentation made by Sen. Kerry. We need a good relationship with Pakistan. I hope we can have that good relationship with Pakistan. But this isn’t the time to start flexing our muscles.”

Reid said Pakistan has done some “good things,” such as returning the tail of the stealth helicopter left behind by U.S. Navy SEALs after the raid that killed Al Qaeda terrorist leader and 9/11 attack mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Pakistan reportedly had considered allowing China to study the tail.

“I think that this is the time that we have to withhold judgment before any monies can be asked to be sent to Pakistan,” Reid said.

“There will be hearings,” he added. “There will be discussions in the White House. There will be diplomatic activities taking place so I don’t think – my personal opinion; not speaking for the [Democratic] caucus of course – I don’t think we need at this stage to talk about what we’re going to do because that decision doesn’t have to be made right now.”

Echoing Reid’s view, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said “disengaging” Pakistan is not in America’s best interest.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

“I can only speak for myself,” McConnell told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday.  “I don’t think disengaging from Pakistan, a nuclear power, in America is of best interest. There certainly is, as we have learned,  a lot of different factions in Pakistan, some of which are friendly to us and some of which are not. We knew that before the Osama bin Laden raid. We still know that but I think disengaging and pulling back from Pakistan would not be in America’s best interest.”

In his remarks at the National Press Club on Monday, former National Security Advisor retired General James Jones said Pakistan’s actions have prolonged the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

“The undeniable fact is that since their deeply flawed decision to not put their army along the border with Afghanistan – this in 2006, thinking that the tribes would in exchange for the army not being present would patrol the border and prevent illegal crossings – Pakistan has become a selective safe haven for terrorists and terrorist leaders,” he said.  “And this fact alone has resulted in prolonging the efforts in Afghanistan and continues to cause us and our allies to suffer many more casualties and to deplete our national treasure at a time when obviously we can ill afford to do so.”