WASHINGTON – Pakistan is beginning to recognize the severity of the threat posed by an extremist insurgency that is encroaching on key urban areas, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday.
Clinton told a House appropriations subcommittee that the Obama administration is working to persuade the Pakistani government that its traditional focus on India as a threat has to shift to Islamic extremists.
“Changing paradigms and mind-sets is not easy, but I do believe there is an increasing awareness of not just the Pakistani government but the Pakistani people that this insurgency coming closer and closer to major cities does pose such a threat,” she said.
On Wednesday, Clinton told another House committee that in her view the Pakistani government is “basically abdicating to the Taliban and the extremists.”
She said Thursday that the administration’s special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, has had “painful, specific” conversations with a wide range of Pakistanis about the need to act more effectively against the insurgents.
“There is a significant opportunity here for us working in collaboration with the Pakistani government to help them get the support they need to make that mind-set change and act more vigorously against this threat,” she said, adding, “There are no promises. They have to do it.”
Clinton encountered skepticism from some committee members who expressed doubt about succeeding in Pakistan. Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) told her he worries that the administration’s policy agenda – domestic and foreign – could be “devoured” by the Pakistan-Afghanistan problem.
“I have absolutely no confidence in the ability of the existing Pakistan government to do one blessed thing,” Obey said.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the committee chairwoman, expressed similar concerns.
“The escalating terrorist violence in Pakistan and that government’s inability and unwillingness to confront the extremist threat undermine any progress we have made in Afghanistan and complicates future efforts there,” Lowey said. “I fear that we are losing the window of international consensus and commitment to help the region gain a strong foothold on its long climb out of conflict.”
One measure of progress in Pakistan, Clinton said, is the extent to which the Pakistani military is shifting its troops from the Indian border to the Afghan border, where the Taliban threat has been expanding.
Clinton was appearing before the appropriations panel that is reviewing the administration’s request for $7.1 billion in additional funds for the State Department this budget year. Of that total, $497 million would be for State Department support of Pakistan and $980 million would be for Afghanistan. About $482 million would be for Iraq.
Clinton said that local job creation is a key purpose of the extra funds requested for State Department work in Afghanistan.
She told the panel that a main goal is to improve security at the local level in Afghanistan by putting more people to work. And she said the administration believes that many in the Taliban insurgency who are fighting against U.S. and Afghan forces are motivated more by money than ideology.