Clinton: Changing Mindset in Pakistan About Extremist Threat Will Not Be Easy
By Dan Robinson
23 April 2009
The situation in Pakistan and the Obama administration's strategy there as well as in Afghanistan dominated a second day of testimony in Congress on Thursday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. U.S. lawmakers voiced concerns about the latest developments involving Taliban advances in Pakistan.
As with her appearance the previous day before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Secretary Clinton faced questions about President Obama's strategy to strengthen Afghanistan against a resurgent Taliban and bolster Pakistan against extremist advances.
Lawmakers voiced concerns about Islamabad's unwillingness to fully recognize that the main threat to its security has shifted from nuclear-armed India to extremists inside Pakistan.
Democratic Representative David Obey pointed to the Pakistani government's agreement with the Taliban in the Swat Valley - the latest manifestation of which can be seen in Taliban advances in the Buner region some 100 kilometers from Islamabad. Obey warned that leaders in Pakistan still are not addressing the situation.
"We have factions [in Pakistan] playing for their own interest, not focused on the real threats to that state," said David Obey. "You have the insistence of the Pakistani government that they continue to focus on India rather than focus on the real threat."
Saying he has "absolutely no confidence in the ability of the existing Pakistani government to do one blessed thing," Obey added that without a functioning Pakistani government focused on the right issues, the United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the region.
Secretary Clinton said changing "paradigms and mindsets" in Pakistan will not be easy, but she said she believes that Pakistani factions are coming around to focus on the main threat.
"I was heartened to hear that leaders of opposing political parties, even Islamic-based political parties, have begun to express their concerns about the deal in Swat [Valley," said Hillary Clinton. "Parliamentarians are beginning to speak out. Yesterday, I called for the Pakistani diaspora to also speak out."
The Obama administration is preparing a list of benchmarks by which to measure progress in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Secretary Clinton said these benchmarks, some of which will be classified, are critical to the president's strategy and lawmaker's ability to assess progress.
"We do think we owe you a set of measurements that we are going to try to [use to] judge whether we are making progress or not, and that you should be able to judge as well," she said.
But Clinton said the Obama administration prefers that Congress not embody benchmarks in legislation, saying they should be seen as a way to hold the administration accountable and not used to paralyze efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Democratic Representative Adam Schiff said the Obama administration has the difficult task of determining how to restructure future military support to Pakistan to help accelerate a change in thinking in Islamabad.
"We have provided a phenomenal amount of military support for Pakistan," said Adam Schiff. "They haven't changed the paradigm as you pointed out. And more pernicious, there are elements within the Pakistani intelligence services - the ISS - that may be working at cross-purposes with us. And I don't know how we possibly can be funding the Pakistani military if elements of the military or intelligence services are actually working against us and having the effect of killing our troops next door [in Afghanistan]."
As for the effort to shift Pakistan's focus from India to a more robust fight against extremists, Republican Representative Jerry Lewis said he remains concerned about India-Pakistan tensions.
"I do understand on the other hand why Pakistan has so many troops on the Indian border," said Jerry Lewis. "If indeed, just a little more militancy causes a spark that causes India to react, if something were to happen in Kashmir, we could have an explosion that involves two nuclear powers faced off against one another."
On other issues in Thursday's hearing, Secretary Clinton said the United States will not deal with a Palestinian Authority unity government that includes Hamas that does not recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept to existing agreements.
On Iran, Clinton said every international leader with whom she personally has met since becoming Secretary of State wants to support the "strongest posture" toward Iran and holds a strongly-held view that "Israel's willingness to re-enter discussions with the Palestinian Authority" strengthens their position in dealing with Iran.
Secretary Clinton said the Obama administration is looking not only at the piracy issue in Somalia, but also at how to support the new federal transitional government in Mogadishu in dealing with challenges.
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