US ambassador nominee praises Musharraf but says civilian rule preferable in Pakistan
The Associated Press: Published in International Herald Tribune: June 20, 2007
WASHINGTON: President George W. Bush's nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Pakistan praised President Pervez Musharraf Wednesday for his efforts to counter terrorist incursions along his country's long border with Afghanistan.
The general "has been our friend," Anne W. Patterson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has sent some 85,000 Pakistani troops to the border and is trying to clamp down on growing opium poppy cultivation, a spillover from Afghanistan, she said.
Patterson currently heads the State Department's counternarcotics bureau and is a former ambassador to Colombia, a major narcotics producing country.
Pressed by Democratic Sen. John Kerry, who chaired the hearing on five ambassadorial nominations, Patterson said as a matter of principle the Bush administration would prefer civilian rather than military control of the Pakistani government.
The remark, while not emphasized by the nominee, adds a note of criticism of Musharraf despite the Bush administration's close ties to him. Bush has affirmed his confidence in Musharraf as an ally in the fight against terror but also has said "we do push for democracy" in Pakistan.
The administration is determined to support Musharraf, whose government has captured many suspected insurgents and lost hundreds of soldiers battling militants along its border with Afghanistan.
But the administration also wants to show its support for democracy, which Bush has set as a foreign policy priority.
Musharraf came to power in a 1999 coup and has yet to relinquish control of the military.