House Speaker John Boehner said on Tuesday that the U.S. and Pakistan needed to figure out once and for all the nature of what has been oft-described a "complicated" relationship, noting that "I see an ally" but "I think it's a moment when we need to look each other in the eye and decide, are we real allies?
Speaking in an interview on NBC's "Today Show," Boehner emphasized Pakistan's crucial role in the U.S. war on terror, but said that "I don't think we ought to have questions" about whether or not the country was truly working with the America to achieve its goals.
"I see an ally [in Pakistan]," Boehner told NBC's Matt Lauer. "But clearly there are questions that remain about what they knew or didn't know about bin Laden being in their country. There are certainly questions about their willingness to pursue some terrorists but maybe not others."
"I do trust them," he added, "But I think it's a moment when we need to look each other in the eye and decide, are we real allies? Are we going to work together? And if we are, you're either all in or you're not in."
Questions about the strength of the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistani governments have become increasingly fraught in the days since the death of Osama bin Laden, particularly in light of the fact that the al Qaeda leader had been living in a conspicuous mansion in suburban Islamabad for at least five years before he was found. Many, including President Obama, have wondered whether or not high-level officials in Pakistan were knowingly harboring the man for whom the U.S. searched for nearly ten years since 9/11.
But Boehner, like most lawmakers, reiterated Pakistan's key role in the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, and urged Americans not to minimize the sacrifices many Pakistanis have made in the process.
"Pakistan has been a real asset when it comes to fighting the war on terror," Boehner said. "And let's never forget that Pakistan has lost more troops and more individuals than we have here in America. So they have been an ally. They have been helpful."
The Ohio Republican has emphasized over the last week that now is "not a time to back away from Pakistan" -- and that reducing financial aid to the nation would be "premature."
"Is it expensive?" Boehner asked recently, of the nearly $20 billion the U.S. has provided to Pakistan since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He conceded that it had, but that the expenditures have "been worth it."
Boehner added, however, that "there are questions and I don't think we ought to have questions."
He also commented on the 2012 Republican presidential field - though he declined to endorse a particular candidate.
"There are a lot of good candidates out there. Donald Trump would be one of them, maybe. He really hasn't said if he's running or not running," Boehner said, when questioned about his support for the reality television host.
"I would expect that we haven't seen all of the candidates yet," he added. "I understand my good friend Newt Gingrich is about to announce. I think he brings an awful lot to the debate. But there are a lot of candidates, and the process of going through presidential primary will sort out the good from the bad and we'll end up with a very good candidate."
Boehner also piled on in praising first-term Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who, despite his relative inexperience, is being courted by a number of powerful Republicans to enter the race.
"I know him pretty well. I think he's done a great job and he speaks English, which the American people like, English, like in plain talk," Boehner said, of Christie. "I think Mitch Daniels is looking pretty seriously at this -- the governor of Indiana - another person who's got a track record of reform in his state, the kind of reforms we need in Washington, D.C."