Pakistan’s tribal regions seen as breeding ground of terrorism

Pakistan’s tribal regions seen as breeding ground of terrorism
* US House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman calls for review of policy towards Pakistan
By Khalid Hasan; Daily times, May 8, 2008

WASHINGTON: Howard L Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned here on Wednesday that the tribal regions of Pakistan provide safe haven for thousands of militants and terrorists who seek not only to destabilise Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan, but who also plan attacks around the globe.

He said it is imperative that US foreign policy towards Pakistan be reviewed to find out what is working, what is not, and how a new administration should approach this critical region.

“With new civilian and military leadership in Pakistan, we now have a chance to establish a sustainable and mutually beneficial bilateral relationship; a relationship that recognises how unfettered extremism poses a threat to Pakistan, its neighbours, and the world; a relationship that focuses on economic and development assistance not as an afterthought but as the necessary foundation to promote long-term growth; and a relationship that adheres to the values that both of our nations inherently share – bolstering forces of moderation, holding dear the principles of democracy, and promoting peace and prosperity throughout Pakistan.”

Berman pointed out that recent reports of negotiations between the Government of Pakistan and tribal leaders present a “challenge for the United States”. He wondered how the US can balance the need to engage with certain tribal leaders but still hold firm against negotiating with terrorists who will continue to fight US and NATO troops in Afghanistan regardless of any truce. He was of the view that Washington must remain steadfast in the fight against the “irreconcilable forces” that wish to attack the US, destabilise the region and return Afghanistan to the regime that gave safe harbour to Al Qaeda and other terrorist elements. “However, this approach will require greater co-operation between Pakistan and Afghanistan and a concerted effort to show the Pakistani people that this is not just a fight for America, but also for a secure Pakistan,” he added.

The California congressman said the obvious first step would be to create a comprehensive US strategy towards Pakistan. He pointed out that a General Accounting Office (GAO) report this week furnished “proof” that the funds doled out by our government to support the fight against extremism in the region have been subject to little to no internal oversight. He asked why the US government is being asked to reimburse Pakistan for air defence radar maintenance. He noted that Al Qaeda is not known to have an air force, and the purpose of US funds is to support the fight against extremists, not to boost Pakistan’s conventional warfare capability. “It’s time we learn from our government’s mistakes and move forward.

Bringing stability and growth to Pakistan, winning in Afghanistan, and fulfilling vital US national security goals are all at stake. The democratic institutions of Pakistan are our allies, and it is only through our support for these institutions that we will ultimately serve the Pakistani people and gain their cooperation in our mutual fight against extremism,” the congressman stressed.

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