WASHINGTON - Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) today expressed concern that political instability in Pakistan could lead to nuclear weapons falling into the hands of America's enemies, and called on national security experts to examine U.S.-Pakistan relations before his Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security.
"Social unrest in Pakistan has caused real concern for the security and stewardship of its nuclear arms," said Sen. Carper. "Pakistan's nuclear program and its ongoing tensions with Afghanistan present a host of challenges to our strategic relationship with Pakistan."
As the subcommittee chairman, Sen. Carper called today's hearing, "Addressing the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Relationship," to explore what America's best policy options are in dealing with the South Asian nation. The senator stressed that a growing, complex Islamic insurgency combined with a demoralized army and intensely anti-American population have caused concern that Pakistan's nuclear weapons may be at risk to the United States.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently called the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan "the site of planning for the next attack" on the United States. The region is also rumored to be the hiding place of Osama Bin Laden, underscoring the importance of the region.
"In light of Pakistan's recent elections, and a virulent anti-American Islamic insurgency raging on its western front, we must decide how we best move forward with this partnership," said Sen. Carper "The security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is of the utmost importance," Sen. Carper said. "The possibility of Al Qaeda or another terrorist group acquiring a warhead or enough radioactive material to create a dirty bomb is something that we simply cannot leave to chance."
Witnesses, including renowned national security experts and a high-ranking State Department official, addressed such topics as Pakistan's ongoing cooperation in the war on terrorism, the rise of Islamic extremism in western Pakistan, nuclear proliferation, and its relations with India.
Sen. Carper asked witnesses whether the billions of U.S. dollars poured into Pakistan to help secure its border with Afghanistan have been effectively spent, as well as how the United States can ensure Pakistan remains a trustworthy and reliable partner in the American-led war against terror. A study just released by the RAND Corporation says that Pakistani intelligence agents have aided Taliban insurgents and compromised U.S. military movements. RAND warns that America will face "crippling, long-term consequences" if insurgent strongholds in Pakistan are not removed.
"If our relationship is to advance, we must work with Pakistan and other allies to develop a strategy that creates long-term goals for success," Sen. Carper said in response to several disturbing reports from Pakistan this week alone. "Our goals should include, but not be limited to, more U.S., non-military assistance and greater transparency and accountability in U.S. military aid to Pakistan. Since 9/11, the United States has had an exclusively Musharraf-based policy. Now is the time to pivot to a Pakistan-based policy."