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US Officials, Lawmakers Discuss Pakistan Strategy


The U.S. special representative to Pakistan told a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday that humanitarian efforts should be a focus of U.S. policy toward the country. But, some U.S. lawmakers also want clearer guidance from Pakistan regarding American drone aircraft strikes.

Deputy Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Paul Jones, testifying before a Senate Homeland Security subcommittee, said the United States has taken the right approach in pledging to increase aid to Pakistan. He said it is well known in the country that the United States is a leader in efforts to help more than two million people displaced by the government offensive against Taliban extremists in the northwest. But, Jones noted that it is perhaps more important that Pakistan take credit for the humanitarian mission.

"To counter the attempts by extremists to influence displaced persons, it's very important for the displaced persons to see that their own government is actually providing assistance," said Paul Jones. "And I think that's why - in one respect - why Pakistan is kind of possessive about that effort."

Jones said the United States already has disbursed more than $164 million to aid organizations to help people displaced by the fighting. Legislation recently passed by the U.S. Senate seeks to triple non-military aid to Pakistan during the next five years.

Another key issue in U.S.-Pakistan relations is the use of unmanned American aircraft, known as drones, to carry-out attacks on Taliban and al-Qaida targets. Jones was reluctant to reveal details of these missions, as the United States rarely discusses the use of drones.

The subject is a sensitive issue in Pakistan, where citizens decry civilian casualties that result from the strikes, and the country's politicians criticize the attacks as a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty.

But Democratic Michigan Senator Carl Levin, Chairman the Armed Services Committee, says the attacks would not take place if it were not for the tacit approval of Pakistan's leadership.

"For them to look the other way or to give us the green light privately and then to attack us publicly leaves us, it seems to me, at a very severe disadvantage and loss with the Pakistani people," said Carl Levin.

Earlier, at a Senate Foreign Relations Hearing, President Barack Obama's nominee for ambassador to India - former Indiana Representative, Democrat Timothy Roemer - testified that one of his priorities will be supporting dialogue between India and Pakistan.

"I think it's an important role for the United States to recognize that while Pakistan and India are two sovereign and independent nations that there's much that we can do to encourage these two countries to continue to talk, to exchange and to improve hotlines, in case something happens in a Mumbai-type of attack in the future," said Timothy Roemer.

In addition to his work on national security issues while a member of the House of Representatives, Roemer served on the "9/11 Commission" that investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. He serves on a commission created by Congress to evaluate policy on preventing nuclear proliferation.

Both the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, and the ranking Republican, Richard Lugar, expressed their support for Roemer's nomination. Kerry said he hopes Roemer will be confirmed by the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits India later this month.

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