All blogs filed under Pakistan
Last week, Iranian citizens took to the streets of Isfahan to protest a recent spate of violent acid attacks against women. Holding placards showing their solidarity with the victims, the peaceful protestors called for Iranian authorities to hold the attackers accountable.
We know that these kind of egregious attacks happen against women around the world, and I have spoken out before about incidents in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Women are often the drivers of economic growth and cultural change, but they are also often the targets of horrible violence.
What is especially troubling about the Isfahan attacks is that they follow the passage of a new law in Iranian parliament, which is reportedly “designed to protect those who correct people acting in an un-Islamic way.” It is the women, the survivors, who should be protected, not their attackers.
Even as the Administration continues to negotiate with the Iranian regime on nuclear issues, we cannot lose sight of the regime’s egregious human rights record. The Iranian government must take action – at both the local and federal levels – to hold accountable those hardliners who perpetrated these attacks and to reverse the legislative framework that protects these criminals.
On September 9th, I delivered a speech on Afghanistan and Pakistan at the Army War College. I was honored to address the student body in Carlisle which was made up of senior military officers from all services of the armed services, as well as from allied militaries in more than 50 countries.
Next month, we will enter the ninth year of our engagement in Afghanistan. In the speech, I outlined three main areas where we need to see progress in the near future: the fight against corruption at all levels in the country; the training of Afghan National Army and Police and the importance of the international development efforts, particularly in the field of agriculture. Each one of these elements are critical to our success in Afghanistan.
I also recognized the sacrifice of Pakistan in this conflict, especially in recent months. The Pakistani people have suffered greatly in the fight against extremism as well as from the devastating effects of the ongoing flood disaster. We must do all that we can to support sustained partnership with the people of Pakistan, a central theme of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill. Pakistan also has a crucial role to play in combating the flow of ammonium nitrate in Afghanistan, the deadly ingredient used in improvised explosive devices targeting our troops.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has lost 55 service members who gave what Lincoln called the “last full measure of devotion” to their country. I pray for their families and for ourselves, so that we may be worthy of their sacrifice on the field of battle. We have an obligation in the Senate to honor their memory through vigilant oversight of the war effort, and I look forward to honoring this solemn obligation during this challenging period that we face in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Tomorrow is World Refugee Day, an annual event to celebrate the contribution of refugees throughout the world and draw attention to their continuing needs. I am proud that Pennsylvania has been a leader in welcoming refugees to the United States, with more than 100,000 refugees from over 30 nations making our state their home since the mid-1970s. As a United States Senator, I have sought to draw greater attention to the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons in Iraq, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. Large refugee populations pose not only a humanitarian crisis, but can impact the political and economic stability of states critical to our national interest.
Last year, I went to the Senate floor to deliver a floor statement recognizing the importance of World Refugee Day. This year, I was honored to attend a reception yesterday evening hosted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). At the reception, I enjoyed a chance to say hello to Angelina Jolie, the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I had the opportunity to raise two foreign policy issues of particular concern to me. I first asked the Secretary about the Administration’s approach to dealing with the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. The Secretary and I agreed that we must use all tools at our disposal, from diplomacy to robust economic sanctions, to convince the Iranian regime to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons. I support President Obama’s plan to engage Iran diplomatically, and along with Senator Brownback of Kansas I recently introduced the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2009, legislation to authorize state and local governments to divest their pension funds of assets held by companies that continue to do business with Iran.
Secretary Clinton and I also discussed the escalating crisis in Pakistan. The Pakistani military is engaged in heavy fighting with the Taliban insurgency, which has captured territory within 60 miles of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. What is particularly troubling from the perspective of United States national security is the prospect of a Pakistani nuclear warhead ending up in the hands of the Taliban, Al Qaeda or other extremist groups. A terrorist group acquiring nuclear weapons would pose a grave threat to the world. The Secretary assured me that she and other senior U.S. officials are confident that Pakistan’s nuclear material is adequately secure. I will continue to work with the Administration to help counter the Taliban threat in Pakistan.
Click here to read my floor statement on our strategy in Afghanistan and 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.