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Pakistan Boosting Cooperation with US Jhon Kerry

Posted by on Wednesday, May 18, 2011, 10:37
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Pakistan, under renewed US pressure since the death of Osama bin Laden, is stepping up its efforts to battle extremists and help stabilize Afghanistan, senior US Senator John Kerry said Tuesday.

US Jhon Kerry
US Jhon Kerry

“Some of them are important things that are very important to us strategically, but they are not appropriate to discuss publicly,” said the Democratic lawmaker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Kerry, newly returned from a whirlwind visit to both countries, said he had heard “frustration” from top Pakistani officials about the US raid that killed the Al-Qaeda leader, but had made clear Washington expects more from its ally.

“This relationship will not be measured by words or by communiques after meetings like the ones that I engaged in. It will only be measured by actions,” said the Democratic lawmaker.

Amid US public anger that bin Laden was tracked to a Pakistani garrison town nearly 10 years after the September 11 terrorist strikes, and corresponding pressure on US lawmakers to cut aid to Islamabad, Kerry said Pakistani leaders had pledged new efforts to cooperate with Washington.

“They are concrete, they are precise, they are measurable and they are in many cases joint — and we will know precisely what is happening with them in very, very short order,” he said.

“I’m very, very confident about a number of those things having a major impact on the things we need to do,” said Kerry, who promised to detail the new initiatives to his colleagues in a closed-door session expected next week.

Kerry said high-level US-Pakistan talks “that will begin very, very soon” would touch on “some larger issues” and added that if they go well then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will decide “when and if” to visit Pakistan.

Clinton told reporters at the State Department that Marc Grossman, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, would visit Pakistan later to “continue more detailed consultations.”

The chief US diplomat added: “We are going to be working very hard in the days and weeks ahead to ensure that we have a path forward that continues the progress and answers a lot of concerns that both sides have at this point.”

Kerry, who is sometimes discussed as a possible successor to Clinton, said he had “no indication” during his trip to Islamabad that high-level Pakistani officials had been complicit in hiding bin Laden.

“They admit things went wrong, they understand that mistakes were made, and they’re going to try to get at it. I’m convinced that they want to find out because they want to hold those folks accountable,” said Kerry.

US relations with Pakistan took a dive early this month after elite US commandos swept into bin Laden’s fortified compound in the Abbottabad military academy town and killed the elusive Al-Qaeda leader, embarrassing officials in Islamabad and raising questions about whether they knew he was there.

US lawmakers’ frustration was evident Tuesday as Kerry’s committee quizzed President Barack Obama’s former national security adviser, retired general Jim Jones, about prospects for improved US-Pakistan ties.

“You have a partner who can seem, as some have said, to be both firefighter and arsonist simultaneously,” said Senator Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the panel and Obama’s former foreign policy mentor.

Jones repeatedly questioned the judgment of Pakistani leaders — saying that “logic doesn’t always play a dominant role” in decision-making in Islamabad — but said he hoped they would forcefully cast their lot in with Washington.

“I’m hopeful that at long last, cooler heads will prevail and logic will come into the equation and our colleagues in Pakistan will see the future with a little bit more of a strategic vision,” said Jones.

Pressed on whether Washington should freeze aid, Jones replied “I would counsel against what might be a very tempting thing to do” and warned against “long-term consequences” for US interests in the region.

Kerry said Pakistan’s role would affect Obama’s plans to start withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan in July and hand over security to Afghan forces in 2014, a deadline seen by some in Islamabad as Washington abandoning the region.

“We will pursue our policy in Afghanistan to the best of our ability no matter what,” the senator said, but the Pakistanis “hold the key to the fastest, least costly, most effective” drawdown.

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