Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended U.S. cooperation with Pakistan today to lawmakers who questioned the willingness of Afghanistan’s neighbor to clear out terrorist sanctuaries within its borders.
“Many of our successes against al-Qaeda would not have been possible without close cooperation between the United States and Pakistan,” Clinton said to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Clinton faced questions about the Obama administration’s decision to certify Pakistan’s cooperation against terrorism, a prerequisite for some U.S. assistance.
“On balance, Pakistan met the legal threshold,” she said, adding she had considered “a number of factors.”
Since fiscal 2002, the U.S. has provided more than $22 billion in military and civilian assistance to Pakistan, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Last week, Clinton visited both Afghanistan and Pakistan, where she, CIA Director David Petraeus and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, urged Pakistani authorities to coordinate with U.S., NATO and Afghan forces on intelligence and covert operations to “squeeze” insurgents on both sides of the porous border.
In her prepared remarks to the House panel, Clinton also sought to counter pressure by Republican lawmakers to cut U.S. funding for Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying the stability and economic development of the war-torn region is critical to U.S. security.
“This strategy requires resources. I can’t sugar coat that fact,” Clinton said to the Republican-controlled House committee. “But the future of this region is vital to the national security of the United States. And we will continue to have significant interests there long after our combat troops come home.”
Clinton insisted that President Barack Obama’s strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan “has yielded significant results” including the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and many of his top lieutenants.
“The threat remains real and urgent -- especially from al- Qaeda’s affiliates. But the group’s senior leadership has been devastated and its ability to conduct operations is greatly diminished,” she said.
The U.S. has seen “intelligence threads” that show debate inside the Taliban over its policies and actions, Clinton said. There is disagreement within the group over whether to maintain opposition to allowing girls to attend school, she said.
Fight, Talk, Build
Such rifts may be significant if elements of the militant groups are willing to abide by Afghanistan’s constitution and reconcile with the elected government.
Clinton outlined the U.S. strategy to “fight, talk and build” in Afghanistan, which entails pursuing military operations against militants while at the same time trying to negotiate with insurgents who are willing to lay down arms and abide by the Afghan constitution.
The U.S., she said, would not support a peace deal with militants that rolls back the promised rights of women and minorities in Afghanistan.
--Editors: Terry Atlas, Steven Komarow
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