In a news conference at the U.S. embassy in Kabul on Sunday, Senator John Kerry said the U.S. “has reached a “critical moment” in its relationship with Pakistan following the killing of Osama bin Laden.”
Kerry’s news conference in Kabul came before taking off for “Pakistan to address what he called “very disturbing” evidence of the Pakistani government’s knowledge of insurgent sanctuaries.”
Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has emerged in the past few years as an important envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan during times of crisis. Bin Laden’s killing this month in a military town in Pakistan has generated perhaps the most important crossroads yet: a chance for the United States to decide whether it will continue to work with a Pakistani government it suspects of supporting Taliban factions, reduce U.S. aid or make other changes to the relationship.
Kerry, in a news conference at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, did not tip the Obama administration’s hand on how it plans to proceed with Pakistan. But he said some of his congressional colleagues “have deep reservations about whether or not Pakistan is committed to the same goals, or prepared to be a full partner in pursuing these goals.”
“Yes, there are insurgents coming across the border, yes they are operating out of North Waziristan and other areas of the sanctuaries, and yes, there is some evidence of Pakistan government knowledge of some of these activities in ways that is very disturbing,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. Kerry said when he returns to Pakistan, “that will be, without any question, one of the subjects of conversation.”
“We are at a moment where we have to resolve some very serious issues,” Kerry said. “This is not a moment for anything except very sober, serious discussion with an understanding that there’s a lot at stake. There’s no other way to put it.”
The NY Times notes that while in Pakistan, “Kerry will also raise an issue that the administration has refused to discuss publicly: Pakistan’s escalating production of nuclear fuel to expand its arsenal of 100 or so nuclear weapons.”
Members of Congress, in closed sessions, have complained that since the $3 billion American annual aid to the Pakistani military is fungible, the United States is effectively helping bankroll the fastest-growing nuclear arsenal in the world. “It will jeopardize funding if that continues,” Mr. Kerry said.
Newsweek has an interesting piece on Kerry’s latest trip to the Afghanistan – Pakistan region: “The Pakistan Whisperer.”
… the Massachusetts Democrat is neck deep in the Afghanistan–Pakistan (or AfPak) diplomatic muddle. He knows the issues, he knows the players, and he is a popular figure in the region, thanks in part to the 2009 Kerry–Lugar–Berman aid package, which authorizes $1.5 billion annually to Pakistan. This gives the senator particular weight. As former State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley puts it: “Kerry is probably unique in being able to go to Pakistan as a demonstrated friend and say, ‘Look, lots of people are calling for us to cut off assistance. I will not be able to defend you unless you respond in a meaningful way to this event.’”
Newsweek speculates that Kerry “has been auditioning to succeed Secretary Clinton” as Secretary of State. A position that Clinton has claimed she’s not interested in for a second term with President Obama. Kerry, in my opinion is the perfect man for the job, but my long-time sources among his staff still contend he’s not interested. Time will tell… In the meantime, keep an eye on what follows from Kerry’s visit to Pakistan.
Kerry may claim to not be interested in the position of Secretary of State, but the fact is, he’s been the defacto Secretary of State in so many regards when it comes to Pakistan and Afghanistan. My bet is that he’ll not turn the job down if offered.