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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More