News / USA

    US Diplomats: Afghan, Pakistan Engagement Necessary

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Kerry, left, with committee's ranking Republican, Senator Lugar, Washington, Feb. 2011.
    Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Kerry, left, with committee's ranking Republican, Senator Lugar, Washington, Feb. 2011.
    Michael Bowman
    CAPITOL HILL -- President Barack Obama's nominees for the next U.S. ambassadors to Pakistan and Afghanistan testified Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
     
    After holding diplomatic posts in the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan, Richard Olson hopes to become U.S. ambassador to Pakistan. At his Senate confirmation hearing, Olson said that recent tensions between Washington and Islamabad do not change the fact that a stable and democratic Pakistan is in America’s interest.
     
    "Continued engagement with Pakistan is necessary to pursue the strategic defeat of al-Qaida," he said. "Engagement is necessary to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan, to encourage regional stability, and to support political and economic stability within Pakistan itself. Instability in Pakistan would undermine what we are trying to achieve in the region."
     
    James Cunningham, who President Obama nominated to be America’s top diplomat in Kabul, where he currently serves as deputy ambassador, said significant challenges remain in Afghanistan, but that U.S. efforts are bringing results.
     
    "Today, the pieces of a long-term, enduring support structure for Afghanistan's continuing progress and development are now in place," he said. "This makes clear to Afghans and the region that the security transition does not mean we are abandoning Afghanistan. And the Taliban appear to be taking notice. For the first time in a decade, they are debating and signaling an openness to negotiations."
     
    Olson and Cunningham testified at a time of growing pessimism and frustration among many lawmakers over a perceived lack of progress in Afghanistan and difficult U.S.-Pakistan relations. The Senate committee’s chairman, Democrat John Kerry (D-Mass.), summed it up by saying, “Obviously, there is no shortage of challenge here.”
     
    Other legislators were more blunt. The committee's top Republican, Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), questioned the basis for continued, large-scale U.S. military commitments in Afghanistan.
     
    "The country is important but does not hold that level of strategic value for us -- especially at a time when our nation is confronting a debt crisis, our armed forces have been strained by repeated combat deployments, and we are attempting to place more emphasis on East Asia," said Lugar.
     
    Another Republican committee member, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), summed up U.S.-Pakistan ties as "pay-for-play" as he enquired about about U.S. strategy.
     
    "Since it is more of a transactional relationship -- not one that is built on goodwill -- how do we leverage the resources that we have to cause Pakistan to act in ways that we would like to see them act?"
     
    Olson responded by saying that Pakistan must be convinced of an enduring U.S. engagement in the region.
     
    "The great fear among many in the region, I certainly heard this from my Afghan friends when I was serving there, and I think it is true in Pakistan, as well - is that the international community will repeat the experience of 1989 to 1992, when, having accomplished the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, the international community turned away and disengaged."
     
    Committee Chairman Kerry predicted that Olson and Cunningham will be confirmed to their new diplomatic posts. In a rare moment of levity in an otherwise somber hearing, he noted that envoys who succeed at challenging posts usually are rewarded with even more difficult assignments.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora