U.S. Must Work with Pakistan to Stop al Qaeda, Gen. Petraeus Says

Daily News Article   —   Posted on April 6, 2009

(by Edwin Mora, CNSNews.com) – Gen. David H. Petraeus, who heads the Army’s Central Command, advised members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that Pakistan is now home base for al Qaeda and should be the focus of U.S. attention.

“It is in Pakistan that al-Qaeda senior leadership and other transnational extremist elements are located,” Petraeus testified before the Senate panel Wednesday.

Petraeus, who serves as the overall commander for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the additional forces made available by President Obama’s strategy to deal with Afghanistan “will not by themselves be sufficient to achieve our objectives.”

He suggested that “civilian requirements” in Afghanistan and Pakistan must be fully met, as well.

“Operations there are imperative, and we need to provide the support and assistance to the Pakistani military that can enable them to confront the extremists who pose a truly existential threat to their country,” he added.

The general testified alongside Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, and Adm. Eric Olson, special operations commander – both of whom echoed Petraeus’ concerns about Pakistan.

Flournoy said that to dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and “its extremist allies,” we must eliminate their “safe haven” in Pakistan – and “ensure that such safe-havens do not return to Afghanistan.”

She added: “Pakistan’s ability to dismantle the safe havens on its territory and defeat terror and insurgent networks within its borders are absolutely critical to the security and stability of that nuclear-armed state.”

Olsen called the situation in both Pakistan and Afghanistan “increasingly dire.”

“Al-Qaeda’s surviving leaders have proven adept at hiding, communicating and inspiring, operating in and from remote sites in both Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he added.

Petraeus told the committee’s chairman, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) he thinks that progress can be made in Afghanistan regardless of Pakistan’s success in dealing with extremists.

The general, however, pointed out that extremist jihadists in Pakistan pose a threat to the nation’s existence.

“The extremists that have established sanctuaries in the rugged border areas not only contribute to the deterioration of security in eastern southern Afghanistan, they also pose an evermore serious threat to Pakistan’s very existence,” Petraeus said.

And when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked Petraeus whether he would consider Afghanistan the central front in the war on terror, the general answered, “I think you have to take Afghanistan and Pakistan together.”

All three witnesses offered a common suggestion about how to deal with Pakistan: treat it as a sovereign nation that can solve its own problems – with the United States as a partner providing support.

“The effort in Pakistan absolutely has to be one they take forward, and one that we do everything to enable,” Petraeus said.

The general said that the U.S. should – and will – expand our partnership with the Pakistani military.

This will involve helping Pakistan build counterinsurgency capabilities through training, equipment and assistance. It will also involve reinforcing Pakistani intelligence abilities by “bringing together Afghan and Pakistani military officers” for coordination, he said.

Committee member Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) questioned whether providing the Pakistanis with “additional intelligence capabilities” would be feasible, given reports that Pakistani military personnel “have very close and troubling ties with the Taliban.”

Petraeus told Collins that the U.S. would have to establish a process for providing intelligence.

“How we do that [provide intelligence] has to be done very carefully, and we will have to go through a process, I think, where we literally do build some of the trust,” the general said, “because there are both troubling events in the past, and there are troubling accusations out there.”

Flournoy, meanwhile, underscored Petraeus’ assessment of the need for a shift in policy in dealing with Pakistan.

“We seek a strategic partnership with Pakistan that will encourage and enable it to shift its focus from conventional war preparations to counterinsurgency and counterterrorism preparations,” she said.

Flournoy urged Congress to pass a proposal sponsored by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) that would authorize civilian and economic assistance to Pakistan.

Along with Petraeus, she also called on Congress to support a Pakistani Counterinsurgency Capability Fund, which would provide monetary aid to help the Pakistani military to combat insurgent groups.

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