Kerry: Pakistan strategy poses challenge

May 12, 2009 at 5:01 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 12 (UPI) -- The U.S. strategy for Pakistan is a difficult challenge because of the country's nuclear arsenal and growing insurgency, the chairman of a Senate panel said.

"With its nuclear arsenal, terrorist safe havens, Taliban sanctuaries and growing insurgency, Pakistan has emerged as one of the most difficult foreign policy challenges we face," Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Tuesday in opening a hearing on the U.S. policy for Pakistan.

As the United States helps Pakistan's government to respond to an emboldened Taliban, it also must "mend a broken relationship" with Pakistan's citizens, Kerry said. Years of providing military aid while all-but ignoring the wishes of the population led to "an alarming number of Pakistanis (who) actually view America as a greater threat than al-Qaida," he said.

"Until this changes, there's little chance of ending tolerance for terrorist groups, or persuading any Pakistani government to devote the political capital necessary to deny such groups sanctuary and covert material support," he said.

Richard Holbrooke, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said in his opening remarks a stable, secure, democratic Pakistan is vital to U.S. national security interests.

"We must support and strengthen the democratic government of Pakistan in order to eliminate, once and for all, the extremist threat from al-Qaida and affiliated terrorist groups," Holbrooke said.

Holbrooke restated President Barack Obama's strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, which has the strategic goal of disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al-Qaida and eliminating safe havens in the two countries.

Obama's strategy "makes clear the importance of Pakistan's future and stability to the United States and the rest of the world, and the need for increased security, governance and development assistance to Pakistan," he said.

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