Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Holbrooke calls for strong backing of Pakistani government

Veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke also dismissed rumors that the Obama administration is backing away from its support for embattled Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari as he is tested by Taliban and al Qaeda extremists. We have not distanced ourself from President Zardari."

Holbrooke testified before the committee on a day when concerns over recent Taliban gains in Pakistan and Afghanistan dominated the agenda in Washington.
Holbrooke argued that questions about Pakistan's stability do not indicate a withdrawal of American support. We do not think Pakistan is a failed state. Holbrooke's testimony came the day after two leading members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced legislation tripling nonmilitary aid to Pakistan.
The legislation also would separate military from nonmilitary aid, promising that economic aid "is no longer the poor cousin to military aid."

Holbrooke reiterated the administration's support for such legislation, while urging Congress to find a "sweet spot" in terms of requirements made on Pakistan's government. Meanwhile, Pakistan's military continued an assault on militants in Taliban-held areas after they seized territory in violation of an agreement signed this year by Zardari. The recent operations are part of the Pakistani army's intensified drive against the Taliban in its restive tribal regions. The Pakistani government has been criticized for not cracking down on militants along its border with Afghanistan. "Pakistan is a nation that is committed to rooting out extremism and Talibanization in our region, Pakistan's U.S. ambassador Husain Haqqani said Tuesday on CNN's "American Morning."

"As partners, (the United States, Pakistan, and Afghanistan) can certainly contain the Taliban. Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently called Taliban gains in Pakistan an "existential threat" to the country.

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