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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid