Updated: 9:59 p.m. ET
Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann on Tuesday blasted Texas Gov. Rick Perry for what she called his "highly naïve" position on the more than $1 billion U.S. aid sent to Pakistan, contending that not all aid equates to writing Pakistan "blank checks."
Bachmann, speaking in a debate hosted by CNN, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute, argued that an American presence in Pakistan is necessary while Pakistan represents a nuclear threat.
"Pakistan has been the epicenter of dealing with terrorism. They are, as Governor Huntsman said, there are al Qaeda training grounds there. There's also the Haqqani network that can be trained there as well," she said. "And they also are one of the most violent, unstable nations that there is. We have to recognize that 15 of the sites, nuclear sites are available or are potentially penetrable by jihadists. Six attempts have already been made on nuclear sites. This is more than an existential threat. We have to take this very seriously."
"Pakistan is a nation that's kind of like 'too nuclear to fail,'" she added. "We don't want to lose influence."
Bachmann argued that, while Pakistan is "a nation that lies" that "does everything possible that you can imagine wrong," the money provided to the nation for intelligence purposes "is helping the United States."
Consequently, she said, "at this point I would continue that aid."
The Obama administration has called on the Pakistani government to crack down on terrorism in the country, but has reiterated that the United States' relationship with Pakistan is essential to American national security.
Perry said he would not give Pakistan "a penny" in funding until the nation "clearly shows that they have America's best interests in mind."
"They've shown us time after time that they can't be trusted," he said. "I think it is important for us to send the message to those across the world that if you are not going to be an ally of the United States, do not expect a dime of our citizens' money to be coming into your country."
Bachmann lambasted that take as "naïve."
"With all due respect to the governor, I think that's highly naïve," she said. Citing "nuclear weapons all across this nation," Bachmann posited that "al Qaeda could get ahold of these weapons."
"A nuclear weapon could be set off in this city," Bachmann said. "That's how serious this is."
"We're not writing just blank checks," she added. "We're also exchanging intelligence information."