The Situation in Pakistan
Over the past two weeks, we have all seen the headlines regarding the troubling developments in Pakistan. I am deeply concerned by the gains achieved by Taliban extremists in Pakistan, who seized territory a mere 60 miles from Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. These extremists are a threat to the United States because they provide sanctuary to Al Qaeda's senior leadership, who continue to plot attacks against our Nation. Most alarming of all is the prospect that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal could be compromised and nuclear warheads or fissile material end up in the hands of Al Qaeda or Taliban militants. Since joining the Senate, I have highlighted the grave threat posed by a terrorist group acquiring the materials and technology to explode a crude nuclear device, which could destroy a major American city. That theoretical threat is now unfolding before our eyes in Pakistan unless we work with the Pakistani government to reverse current trends.
Pakistani President Zardari and Afghan President Karzai were in Washington last week for a unique "trilateral" session to meet with each other and with President Obama. I had the chance to join them for lunch on Thursday, along with other U.S. Senators. Both men faced a skeptical audience. While the United States can help Pakistan build its capacity to combat extremism, ultimately the Pakistani people must recognize that this war is their war and hence only they can truly win it. My colleagues and I were united, on both sides of the aisle, in delivering that message.
Yesterday, Dick Holbrooke, our special envoy to the region, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on which I sit. Holbrooke fleshed out the President's strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan. I think the President's new approach, focused on dismantling and defeating Al Qaeda, has real promise, but I worry that we may not have much time left. That is why it is so important the Congress pass in the next ten days the FY 2009 supplemental measure to ensure that the additional funding requested by our military and the State Department is available for immediate implementation, especially in Pakistan.
Click here to read my floor statement on our strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan.