Senate Democrats

In Letter To President, Senate Leaders Press For More Effective Pakistan Strategy

Washington, DCSenators Harry Reid, Joseph Biden, Richard Durbin, Charles Schumer and Patty Murray today sent the following letter calling on President Bush to outline a more effective strategy for dealing with Pakistan, the related situation in Afghanistan, as well as addressing the other threats and challenges America faces around the world. The recentactions by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf  raise very troubling questions not only about the Administration’s policy vis-à-vis Pakistan, but also its overall national security strategy.

November 9, 2007

The President
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

The recent decision by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to suspend Pakistan’s constitution and place his nation under emergency rule is deeply disturbing.  His actions raise very troubling questions not only about the Administration’s policy vis-à-vis Pakistan, but also its overall national security strategy.

We note that your Administration has committed to conduct a review of U.S. assistance to Pakistan.  We believe events in Pakistan and elsewhere convincingly demonstrate it is long past time for a more effective strategy for dealing with Pakistan, the related situation in Afghanistan, as well as addressing the other threats and challenges America faces around the world.   

This conclusion is driven by the fact that despite the passage of more than six years since the terrible events of September 11, 2001, al Qaeda and its affiliates have regained strength, and our ability to counter this threat has diminished.    

  • Our intelligence community recently concluded that al Qaeda has “regenerated” and its capability has grown in the past several years to the point where it now rivals what it was before 9/11.   Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri – al Qaeda’s top two leaders – are still at large and the recent National Intelligence Estimate indicates that al Qaeda is operating from safe havens in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border regions.   It is from these regions that our terrorist enemies threaten us most, and therefore these regions must become what they always should have been: the central front of our fight against terrorism.
  • Afghanistan is struggling with a growing number of attacks by the Taliban and terrorist groups against our troops and the Afghan people.  After some initial successes in ousting the Taliban from power, this group of extremists is resurgent.  Exacerbating this situation is the fact that poppy production – and the billions in profits derived from this harvest by groups who mean us harm – is at record levels.
  • Independent surveys of world opinion uniformly conclude that anti-American sentiment in countries all around the globe is at a high point.  Decisions made by your Administration have reduced our ability to influence our friends and a new generation of terrorists has come on the scene.
  • The fact that roughly 160,000 U.S. troops are tied down in Iraq nearly five years after that conflict began, with no end in sight, has degraded the readiness of our military to levels not seen since Vietnam.  The war in Iraq diverted critical military, civilian, and intelligence resources from Afghanistan, where hard fought gains are increasingly challenged by resurgent Taliban. Just as important, our senior military leaders have acknowledged that they no longer have sufficient troops in reserve to deal with additional conflicts or even humanitarian criseselsewhere in the world.

The situation in Pakistan today exemplifies this Administration’s failures in the fight against al Qaeda.  Your administration called President Musharraf a partner in our counter-terrorism efforts and invested over $10 billion in him while providing assurances that Pakistan was on a democratic path.  By suspending the constitution, Musharraf has derailed Pakistan from that path. Such undemocratic moves only further inflame tensions and create openings for radical elements.

His decision to use his police, military and intelligence services against his political opponents instead of against terrorists directly undermines the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda.  It is increasingly clear that the Administration’s policy has served neither the needs of the people of Pakistan nor security interests of our country.   

We believe it is essential that your Administration immediately assess its policy toward Pakistan as well as its overall policy to counter terrorist groups such as al Qaeda.  Among the questions we believe such a review should examine are:

  • Near-term handling of the Pakistan crisis.  What steps can your Administration take to encourage President Musharraf to immediately restore basic constitutional freedoms and ensure that free and fair elections are actually held, as now promised, by mid-February?
  • Future assistance to Pakistan.  How have U.S. national security interests been advanced to date as a result of U.S. assistance to Pakistan? Can you provide assurances that U.S. taxpayer dollars are not being used to support the suspension of the constitution or to deny Pakistani citizens their basic rights? Are there conditions or limitations that could be placed on this assistance that would better serve our interests? What oversight mechanisms are in place to ensure that these resources are being spent on counterterrorism and other intended purposes? Of the $10 billion spent so far, how much was specifically targeted to the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda? 
  • Promoting security and stability across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border:  What steps can your Administration take to enhance Pakistan’s efforts to disrupt the activities of the Taliban and other violent extremist forces within Pakistan and to prevent cross-border incursions by such forces into Afghanistan to attack U.S., coalition and Afghanistan forces?  What can be done to increase cooperation between the Government of Pakistan and the Government of Afghanistan in disrupting terrorist networks that threaten to destabilize the security situation in Afghanistan?
  • Strategy for defeating al Qaeda.  What steps can your Administration take to encourage President Musharraf to more forcefully counter the growing al Qaeda presence in parts of that country?  What actions can be taken in Pakistan and Afghanistan to eliminate al Qaeda’s safe havens?  What new steps do you recommend to address widespread anti-Americanism and the recruitment and radicalization of a new generation of extremists?
  • Strategy for addressing future crises and conflicts.   Given the strains the conflict in Iraq has placed on our troops, our intelligence resources, and our diplomatic corps, do the events in Pakistan raise any concerns about whether the intelligence community, and the Defense and State Departments, have sufficient capacity to deal with crises other than Iraq?  Do you anticipate reevaluating your plan to continue the surge in Iraq through the middle of next year?

We strongly believe your Administration should address these, and related issues, in its promised ongoing review.  Merely continuing the current policies will not provide our troops and the American people the strategy they deserve.  We appreciate your consideration of these views.   

                                                Sincerely,

_____________________                                          _____________________
HARRY REID                                                 JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR
U.S Senator                                                                 U.S. Senator

_____________________                                          _____________________
RICHARD J. DURBIN                                                CHARLES E. SCHUMER
U.S. Senator                                                                U.S. Senator

_____________________
PATTY MURRAY
U.S. Senator

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