Panel II of a Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - A New Strategy For Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan

Statement

By:  Joe Biden, Jr.
Date: June 25, 2008
Location: Washington, DC

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Thank you, Madame Ambassador. And thank you for that robust endorsement. The endorsement from both of you is very much appreciated, and I think will affect our colleagues' attitudes about this.

General, let me start with you, if I may. You know, you're known as one of the most informed and toughest guys in the Army. At the time, not many people in the middle of that Cargill conflict would stare down the commander of the Pakistani army, General Musharraf, in the midst of a shooting war. You did a heck of a job.

And I'd like to talk with you -- I know your expertise goes beyond the military side of the equation, beyond the Pakistani military, but I'd like to -- I apologize for focusing, in the short time I have, on that piece. You have spoken about the need to improve Pakistan's capacity, Pakistan's military capacity, to help the military develop a genuine counterterrorism and counterinsurgency effectiveness. And I know you believe that economic aid impacts on the ability to do that because it changes the conditions on the ground.

But tell me, if you could, if it's appropriate in an open hearing, how you believe the Pakistani general staff views what, on one hand, I think they know they need -- that is, additional training and a reconfiguration, which is very difficult to reconfigure any military force in any country, democracy or otherwise -- how you think they view the assistance to do that from us.

And what are the basic sort of fault lines we've got to be careful about not crossing in order to accomplish a better-trained, more capable Pakistani military, assuming they have the will to move with it against, quote, "terrorists," but al Qaeda, Taliban, and the indigenous groups that are causing them great difficulty?

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Can I ask you a question on that point, because we raised that as well. Would General Kiyani -- would the staff of the military view the diversion of funds for security to training local police, the people on the ground? As you point out, they're not -- they are not present in large numbers in the FATA. But there have been historically presence in the FATA of supposedly some security personnel. They tend to be tribal, as I understand it. They tend to be local.

In your view, how would they view -- maybe diversion is the wrong way of saying it -- do they view that, do you think, as a priority to helping them in the region to go down that next level? Most people think, when we think of the FATA -- and I'll stop -- is that it only relates to the ability of the Pakistani army to bring any physical security to the region. That's not how it's structured.

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SEN. BIDEN: Now, last point I'd like to raise with you, General, is the point raised either by Senator Cardin or Menendez; I'm not sure who it was. And that is, is there any doubt in your mind where the central front for the War on Terror is?

MR. ZINNI: No.

SEN. BIDEN: Where is it?

MR. ZINNI: It's on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan at this time.

SEN. BIDEN: And I was going to -- I didn't want to interrupt, but I was going to remind our administration panelists, who -- you know, I understand their position, but that's also the answer that our Iraqi ambassador gave and that General Petraeus gave when they sat before us when asked, "You get a chance to wipe out al Qaeda Mesopotamia or al Qaeda along the Afghan-Pakistani border, what do you choose?" There was silence for a minute, and they said, "Well, that's" -- I don't know the exact phrase -- "that's a no-brainer; Afghanistan-Pakistan."

I wish we'd get off this diversion about -- anyway, so I thank you.

Ambassador, I have questions for you; a couple I'm going to submit in writing, in the interest of time. But let me just say to you, I remember when you got there. You were dealt a very difficult hand. Within a month or so -- within a month after you got there, 9/11 occurred. You found yourself in a very tough position.

You handled yourself admirably, including when I arrived there shortly thereafter to head into Iraq over the objections of some of the administration because I was flying in on a U.N. flight. They wouldn't let me into Afghanistan. And you were so gracious. You had a lunch for me. And then you had to explain to General Musharraf why I couldn't make a meeting, because I was grounded in Kabul. So I'm sorry I put you through that. Thank you for that hospitality.

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Thank you. Let me -- thank you, Senator -- let me make a concluding comment here and I invite Senator Lugar if he wishes to do the same.

First of all, thanks again for being here and thanks for your strong support. It makes a difference. Quite frankly, when this legislation was drafted, from my perspective at least, the most important was to change the dialogue, to make the number bit enough, to make it immediate enough, that with the democracy dividend, that I find it very interesting. I discussed it with the leaders of the Pakistani People's Party, with the Pakistani Muslim league NNQ, both parties, and it was interesting the reaction. It wasn't so much about the number, but the number was big enough to get their attention that maybe you really mean this. It's generated incredible editorial comment throughout Pakistan, I think from all sources -- correct me if I'm wrong -- favorable. I mean, warring factions, politically warring factions, that maybe this is a change of attitude.

And so, one of the thoughts I had about the numbers was, quite frankly, less the number than demonstrating it's a significant increase and long term. And I don't -- my hope is that it won't just be generated the attitude of a large country as large as Pakistan. It's not going to be generated through AID signs up on walls. My hope is that part of it will be generated just by, in the political culture, that America has changed its attitude. Less with the number, but the number is big enough to get their attention.

The second thing I observed is with the slow down in the Pakistani economy, it matters to the incoming coalition that there is actually money to do these things because they are finding themselves in more difficulty in terms of not being -- they're worried about being able to deliver. Because one thing with the former finance minister, and for a while there under Musharraf, that was sort of the Faustian bargain. Things were getting a little bit better economically.

And the last point I'll make -- (off mike) -- well, I don't know what happened to my mike. I hope what it does is that, in my discussions at least with our friends around the world, that there will be if this attitudinal change occurs -- and it's not going to be easy and it's not going to be overnight -- there is a greater instinct on the part -- there's a lot of other countries who have a real investment in the stability of Pakistan, starting with our European friends and our Japanese -- I mean, there's a real interest in that happening. So I kind of view this not so much as the total number but as a catalyst. The number's big enough, hopefully, to start a catalytic reaction here. But, you know, I must admit to you I really don't know. I've just been surprised at the degree to which it's been embraced by so many corners including so many of our colleagues when Senator Lugar talks about it, when I talk about it. And I think it has less to do with the money than it does the money indicates a seriousness of the underlying purpose of changing the relationship. I hope that's the case. And -- but, you know -- you know lots of times our hopes are not realized here and I think Senator Lugar and I have been around long enough to be pretty hard-nosed practical about even this is no guarantee by any stretch of the imagination.

But I thought I'd just state that to you all as to -- so I don't -- one of the things, at least I speak for myself only -- that I've come away from my years here is the worst thing to do with any program, whether it's, quote, "dealing with the drug problem or dealing at home or dealing with foreign assistance abroad is to over promise." So I don't -- I just hope this is something that genuinely kick starts a change in attitude here and in Pakistan, and as a consequence affects private enterprise, investment, as well as our friends.

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