Today U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) released the following statement on a report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the delay of visas for U.S. personnel traveling to Pakistan. Senator Casey's request comes after a GAO report he requested identified the delays as a hindrance to efforts to combat roadside bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which are the largest killer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
"Since September 11th, 2001 the U.S. has maintained a strong security and development assistance program with Pakistan, which has required the deployment of additional U.S. personnel to monitor the distribution of equipment and provide training. At my request, the GAO has conducted a study on this which found that U.S. officials experience delays in the issuance of both visas to travel to Pakistan and visa extensions. GAO also found that the State Department does not adequately report to Congress on risks posed by these visa delays. As the State Department prepares its regular report on our assistance relationship with Pakistan I expect that challenges related to Pakistan's issuance and extension of visas will be addressed. I also urge the Pakistani authorities to process visas for U.S. personnel in a timely manner to ensure that we are able to conduct these important programs."
Senator Casey, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, has led the effort in the Senate to protect our troops from roadside bombs. In 2011, he traveled to Pakistan to push officials to implement a plan to regulate bomb making materials and prevent their flow into Afghanistan, and supported passage of an amendment in 2012 that would prevent some foreign aid from going to Pakistan until the Department of State certifies that the Pakistani government is implementing a strategy to counter IEDs.