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Pakistan as a failed state is a peril, says Kerry

May 22, 2009 01:34 IST

Saying that the challenges the United States faces in Pakistan are far greater to that in Afghanistan, Senator John F Kerry, the chairman of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee, warned that if Pakistan, "a nuclear-armed nation of 170 million people" becomes a failed state, it would pose "an unimaginable peril to itself, its neighbors and the world."

In his opening remarks at a hearing he convened on US Strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan that featured Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Kerry said, no only were the challenges in Pakistan "in many ways greater than in Afghanistan," but that America's "ability to confront them is at the same time far more limited.
But make no mistake, it is an absolutely vital and compelling national security concern for the United States."

He said that "to fix the Pakistan policy that has largely failed--to the degree there's been a policy--we need to create a new strategy," and this is why he and Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Committee had introduced legislation "which we believe helps to do just that."

Kerry said that by "tripling non-military aid, authorizing it for 5-10 years, and de-linking this aid from our security assistance, we believe we can put our relationship with Pakistan on an entirely new foundation.We can ground our ties on the bedrock of the Pakistani people themselves," he said, and added: "That's why President Obama explicitly called on Congress to pass the Kerry-Lugar bill as part of his overall strategy."

Kerry bemoaned that when he recently visited the Frontier Corps headquarters in Peshawar, he was told by General Tariq Khan, whom he described as a "very competent General" that "after the Corps had fought so hard to clear the Taliban out of Bajaur and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, they had no capacity to bring in the type of development assistance necessary to consolidate their military gains."

Continuing to make a pitch for his bill, Kerry said, it "would help provide the 'hold and build' parts of Pakistan's counter-insurgency strategy." But, he said if nothing is done to change the lives of people who have "been dislocated or impacted by the military operations," it was an invitation "to these folks giving up on the notion that it makes a difference and clearly in the long-run we are not going to be successful if that's what happens."

Kerry said it was imperative to "employ this new counter-insurgency strategy that is more people focused than troop focused, not only in the tribal areas but throughout the country before settled areas like the Punjab and Sindh are destabilised." He argued only then could the US be "able to address the emerging crisis before it matures."

But in the final analysis, Kerry said, "We need to be clear about what's possible. Ultimately, we can influence events in Pakistan, but we cannot decide them. We can strengthen the hand of the moderate majority, but the choices need to be made by that majority and by the Pakistanis themselves."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC