Casey Chairs Nomination Hearing For Ambassador To Pakistan

WASHINGTON, DC-U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs Subcommittee, today chaired a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the nomination of Cameron Munter to be U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan.  

Senator Casey’s opening statement is below.

September 23, 2010

We meet today to discuss the nomination of Cameron Munter to be the president’s ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.  Ambassador Munter, welcome.  I want to thank you for your service to our country in difficult posts in Serbia and most recently in Iraq, which I believe is good preparation for the complex challenges that you will face in Pakistan if confirmed.  I would also like to extend a warm welcome your parents Helen-Jeanne and Len who have joined us here today.

This hearing affords us an important opportunity to discuss the critical importance of our relationship with Pakistan.  It is an understatement to say that the people of Pakistan have suffered greatly in recent years as they confront the growing threat posed by Islamic extremism.  Recent bombing attacks in Quetta and Lahore brought this message home in stark terms.  I am appalled at the scale and destruction of the violence seen in Pakistan in recent years.  We pray for the families of Pakistan who have made the ultimate sacrifice in this conflict and I am confident that their loss will not be in vain.

The Pakistani Taliban or Tehrik-i-Taliban claimed responsibility for these recent attacks, a group that the U.S. recently designated as a foreign terrorist organization.  Faisal Shahzad who attempted to set off a car bomb in Times Square last May said that he was trained by explosive experts in the TTP.  The TTP also threatened attacks against the U.S. and Europe.  This is a common threat to U.S. and Pakistani security and we must do all that we can together to confront these killers.

Extremism is a common enemy of the U.S. and Pakistan, all too often manifested in the form of improvised explosive devices, and their precursor components.  These bombs have killed Pakistani troops and civilians as well as scores of Americans in Afghanistan.  

I have sought to highlight this threat and support U.S. and international efforts to crack down on the proliferation of precursor chemicals like ammonium nitrate.  The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) has led an effort to combat IEDs at every step in the process.  The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency recently commenced Project Global Shield, which is an unprecedented multilateral law enforcement operation aimed at countering the illicit diversion and trafficking of precursor chemicals.

Pakistan has made efforts to contend with ammonium nitrate in large part because the threat has begun to impact security in the country.  Recent coordination between Pakistani civilian and military entities on the IED issue has been positive.  The Government of Pakistan has formed an interagency National Counter-IED forum. We are also beginning to see efforts at the local level, such as small scale bans and regulations in the district of Malakand. Ambassador Anne Patterson has led a remarkable effort to engage with the Pakistani government on this issue.  I hope that Pakistan expeditiously approves its draft legislation to better control explosive materials in the country and makes a concerted effort at enforcement.  I also hope that we can work with the private sector to build understanding of the threat posed by IED precursors and encourage better self-regulation.

We must exercise extraordinary vigilance in stemming the unregulated flow of ammonium nitrate in this region because it directly affects the security of our troops.  Pennsylvania has lost 56 servicemembers in Afghanistan, many of whom were killed by IEDs.  Implementing more robust seizure and interdiction measures is important, but we must do more to dismantle terrorist and other criminal organizations involved in making IEDs.  This will involve multilateral engagement, regulatory measures, training and technological efforts, building border control capacity, and other means.

The people of Pakistan have also suffered from the recent devastating floods, the worst natural disaster in Pakistan’s history.  To assist the people of Pakistan during this difficult time, the U.S. has provided more than $340 million to support immediate relief and recovery efforts.  The U.S. has provided food, infrastructure support and air support to transport goods and rescue those stranded by the floods.  

These devastating floods will require a substantial international commitment of assistance.  The UN has issued an appeal of $459 million, most of which remains unfulfilled.  Private contributions have slowed to a trickle.  I look forward to hearing from Ambassador Munter on the U.S. response to the floods and what more we can be doing to have a tangible impact in the lives of Pakistanis affected by this tragedy.

Recognizing these enormous challenges Senators Kerry and Lugar led a bipartisan effort to encourage a U.S. Pakistani relationship that is based on more solid footing.  

The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act authorizes $7.5 billion in non-military assistance over five years.  Through this investment by the U.S. taxpayers, we seek to establish partnerships between our citizens in order to truly build a stronger foundation of mutual trust.  Development of durable Pakistani institutions and exchanges between teachers, businessmen, lawyers, doctors, engineers and students will be the hallmark of a new relationship based on common values.  The people of Pakistan do not want a future condemned by incessant violence.  I believe that our efforts will help to create an environment that successfully counters extremism.

An essential element of putting our relationship on more solid footing is how we communicate with the Pakistani people.  A June 2010 Pew research survey found that only 17% of Pakistanis held a favorable view of the United States, an opinion that has held constant over the past three years.  59% describe the United States as an enemy.  Our diplomats are contending with very difficult dynamics and high levels of mistrust in conducting public diplomacy.  

I believe that we have made progress in furthering a Strategic Dialogue with the Pakistani government, but what we really need is a strategic dialogue with the Pakistani people.  One that communicates in Urdu.  One that uses media that Pakistanis watch.  And one that looks to amplify those moderate, progressive, and credible voices among Pakistan’s diverse population that want a better relationship with the United States.  There is perhaps some dismay among the American people for what they perceive as ingratitude from Pakistan.  But we cannot expect anything different if the Pakistani people do not know the extent of our investment and partnership.  I look forward to hearing Ambassador Munter’s perspective on this issue and hope that we creatively can work to shift those public opinion numbers in the coming years.    

Part of improving this relationship with the Pakistani people is maintaining our support for a strong civilian government and democratic institutions.  The durability of democratic institutions will be the long term bulwark against extremism and will allow the Pakistani people and its vibrant civil society to express its desires through peaceful democratic means.  We have strongly indicated our long-term support for development through the Enhanced Partnership Act.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts about how this vehicle can be used to improve the lives of Pakistanis, and enhance the standing of the United States within the country.  

Ambassador Munter, I once again want to thank you for once again for your service to our country and your willingness to take on this enormous responsibility.