US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen has warned that Pakistan could be a much more dangerous place if the US walks out on it.
“We cannot walk away from Pakistan, else it will be a much more dangerous place in ten years,” Mullen testified at the hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defence on the defence budget for the fiscal year 2012.
In his submitted statement to the committee, Mullen said that the Haqqani Network and the Quetta Shura were operating “unhindered” from sanctuaries in Pakistan, which were posing a threat to Nato and Afghan forces.
Chaired by Senator Daniel K Inouye, the Senate subcommittee met to discuss the new defence budget. Defence Secretary Robert Gates outlined the base budget request of $553 billion and an Overseas Contingency Operations request for $117.8 billion.
Referring to a New York Times article about Pakistan arresting five people who had helped find Osama bin Laden, Senator Leahy asked the panel why the US was supporting a country that was lying to them. Secretary Gates responded that most countries lie to each other.
In his statement, Mullen also said that it would be in the interest of the US to help reduce tensions between India and Pakistan. He highlighted the efforts of Pakistan Army in the tribal areas, saying Pakistan had lost thousands of soldiers in the process.
The hearing of the committee focused primarily on how cuts in the defence budget would impact the US Army and its operations.
In response to a question, Gates urged the committee to consider the question, “If we cut our defence and state department budgets and close a base, are we sending a message to China, North Korea, Iran and others that the US is closing up shop and returning to Fortress America?”
On Afghanistan, Gates said that the US had often failed to pay heed to President Karzai’s issues, and the public statements Karzai makes were issues that he had highlighted to US officials until a year ago. Gates also said that Karzai has told him that he will step down as president in 2014.
Mullen said it was important that governance in Afghanistan improve, corruption is reduced and development becomes a focus.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2011.