Ed Royce, a California Republican who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Wednesday at a house hearing that the committee has repeatedly urged Pakistan to take meaningful action against key Islamist terrorist groups operating within its territory.
He said: “Unfortunately Pakistan, which is now home to the world’s fastest growing nuclear weapons program, has remained a fount of radical Islamist thought. I doubt that anyone who follows Pakistan closely was surprised to learn that one of the San Bernardino attackers – Tashfeen Malik – studied at a Pakistani school spreading a particularly conservative message. “
He said that looking back, the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the U.S transformed U.S-Pakistan relations overnight. “After more than a decade under sanctions for its nuclear proliferation, Pakistan was to be a key ally in combatting Islamist militancy, becoming a leading recipient of U.S aid in the nearly 15 years since.”
“But while the U.S was quick to embrace Pakistan – Pakistan has hardly reciprocated,” he said adding “Pakistani governments have come and gone, but Pakistan has remained a terrorist haven, with its security services supporting what it considers to be ‘good’ Islamist terrorist groups.”
“These ‘good’ groups – under Pakistan’s calculus – destabilize Afghanistan and threaten neighboring India,” he said.
He went on to say that today, Pakistan maintains an infrastructure of hate and that “thousands of Deobandi madrassas, funded with Gulf state money, teach intolerant, hate-filled rhetoric that inspires the foot soldiers of jihadist terrorism. I’ve made three trips to Islamabad to press this issue. Pakistan must do the work to register schools, and close those creating new generations of radicals.”
Meanwhile, he went on to say that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is on track to becoming the third largest in the world. Its addition of small tactical nuclear weapons and longer-range missiles in recent years is even more troubling, he said.
“This is a country which spends a fifth of its budget on the military, but under two and a half percent on education.”
He said: “Through all of Pakistan’s double-dealing, U.S policy has essentially stood still. Security assistance – cash and arms – has continued to flow after the occasional temporary delays. Indeed, despite some Department of Defense assistance for Pakistan being held because of inadequate efforts against the Haqqani network, the State Department is currently seeking more arms for Islamabad.”
However, Royce said Pakistan itself has been devastated by terrorism, with thousands of its soldiers and citizens killed in terrorist attacks.
“We want a strong partnership with the country. But a new policy is long overdue. One option, as … proposed earlier this year, would be to target those officials who maintain relationships with designated terrorist groups with travel and financial sanctions. “
“This would make it clear: the U.S and Pakistan cannot have a true strategic partnership until Pakistan cuts ties with terrorist organizations.”
Meanwhile, Richard Olson, the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S Department of State testified on the future of U.S-Pakistan relations before the House Foreign Affairs and said despite many challenges Pakistan will continue to be an important partner for the United States for the foreseeable future particularly in light of the U.S’s enduring presence in Afghanistan.
He said that although they do not always see eye to eye on every issue with Pakistan “the relationship is vital to the national security of the United States.”
“Most importantly we have the opportunity to continue working with Pakistan on counter terrorist issues along with strategic stability, economic growth and democratic governance to help shape a future in which Pakistan is more stable, increasingly prosperous and plays a constructive role in the region,” he said.
According to him, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has restored macro-economic stability to Pakistan and improved economic growth.
“There have also been substantial changes on the security front. Beginning June 2014 Pakistan initiated large-scale counter terrorism operations in the federally administrated tribal areas.”
He said that through these operations, Pakistan has rooted out many terrorist safe havens and recovered more than 160 tons of improvised explosive device precursors. “In addition to taking action on internal threats Pakistan’s counter terrorism cooperation with the United States on al-Qaeda has been critical in decimating the organization.
“However while Pakistan has made significant sacrifices in its fight against terrorism we believe it can also take more steps to put pressure on all terrorist groups in Pakistan that threaten regional stability,” he said.
“Pakistan is becoming a more constructive actor in the region. Last July Pakistan facilitated a direct meeting between the Afghan government and the Taliban … a milestone in our ongoing efforts to pursue a political settlement in Afghanistan.”
He went on to say that last week Pakistan hosted the regional Heart of Asia conference that was attended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. This conference yielded productive discussions about regional cooperation to advance the peace process and Afghanistan’s long term stability, he said.
According to him, it was “nonetheless clear that real challenges remain. While we see progress in the decrease of certain terrorists in Pakistan we continue to press Pakistan to target all militant groups that have safe havens in Pakistan particularly the Taliban, including the Haqqani network and Lashkar-i-Tayyiba.
“We have made it clear to Pakistan that these organizations threaten Pakistan, the region and our mutual national interests and they must be addressed rigorously. We have also asked Pakistan to do all that it can to help recover U.S citizen hostages held on Pakistani territory.
“We continue to press for greater cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan both to stabilize the common border region and to build the constructive relationship necessary for regional stability.”