US backs aid to Pakistan despite public opposition WASHINGTON: Nearly three in four Americans (73 per cent) are opposed to sending foreign aid to Pakistan until it demonstrates a deeper commitment to the war against terrorism, an opinion poll here has revealed, even as senior Obama administration officials are making a qualified case for continuing assistance to a shifty ally. In a clear sign that Washington is swimming against the tide of popular distaste for Pakistan, a Fox News poll released Wednesday showed 73 per cent of voters against aid to Islamabad, and only 19 per cent saying US should continue funding. The poll, taken after the Osama bin Laden was found living outside Islamabad, showed only 16 per cent considered Pakistan as a US ally in the war on terror, against 74 per cent who did not consider Pakistan a friend. Fox News said the sentiment is widespread, as majorities of Republicans (84 percent), Democrats (67 percent) and independents (66 percent), as well as both men (73 percent) and women (73 percent) say the US should cut off funding to Pakistan. Democrats (22 percent) are almost twice as likely as Republicans (12 percent) and independents (12 percent) to consider Pakistan a strong ally. The poll results came even as Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the top US military official Mike Mullen pressed for continued aid in the face of growing Congressional resistance and public opposition. At a Pentagon briefing to discuss US defense budget, question from the American media centered largely around Pakistan's dodgy role in the war on terrorism, reflecting widespread antipathy against a once-favored ally. Both Gates and Mullen pushed back, suggesting continuing aid to Pakistan was important because of the US entanglement in Afghanistan, among other things. They said they had not seen any evidence so far that the top Pakistani leadership knew that Osama bin Laden had been sheltered there, although Gates mysteriously let it hang that "someone" in Pakistan knew. Gates also maintained that Pakistan had been punished sufficiently, saying it had already been "humiliated" by the manner in which US forces had gone in and taken out bin Laden. "If I were in Pakistani shoes, I would say I've already paid a price," Gates said. "I've been humiliated. I've been shown that the Americans can come in here and do this with impunity. I think we have to recognize that they see a cost in that and a price that has been paid." The Pentagon push for Pakistan came while Senator Kerry, who has virtually become the Obama administration's special envoy for Pakistan, fended off pressure from his Hill colleagues to curtain aid to a perfidious and dysfunctional ally. Five Democratic Senators on Wednesday wrote a joint letter to Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calling for a review of U.S aid to Pakistan. "We recognize the strategic importance of Pakistan," wrote the group, which included Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus. "However, we cannot overlook the logical conclusion of recent events, which is to question whether the Pakistani security establishment is ardently working to prevent terrorist groups from operating on Pakistani soil." Pakistan is said to be the third largest recipient of US aid worldwide after Afghanistan and Israel, taking in more $ 20 billion since 9/11. Some of that money is in the form of reimbursement under a head called Coalition Support Fund (CSF) for expenses it incurred in the war on terror, but that account is now bedeviled by charges that Pakistan faked or inflated its bills, causing US to reject nearly 40 per cent of the claims in 2010. Pakistan's embrace of China while living on US dole and its threat to shoot down American drones with US supplied F-16s has also created a disquiet in Washington that the country's supporters like John Kerry are finding hard to counter.