SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE STATEMENT OF GENERAL DAVID H. PETRAEUS, U.S. ARMY, COMMANDER U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND BEFORE THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE ON THE AFGHANISTAN-PAKISTAN STRATEGIC REVIEWAND THE POSTURE OF U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
We have seen important change in Pakistan over the past year. During that time, the Pakistani people, political leaders, and clerics united in recognizing that the most pressing threat to their country’s very existence was that posed by certain internal extremist groups – in particular, the Pakistani Taliban. Pakistani citizens saw the Taliban’s barbaric activities, indiscriminate violence, and repressive practices in the Northwest Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and even in some of Pakistan’s so-called “settled areas.” And they realized that the Taliban wanted to take Pakistan backward several centuries, not forward.
With the support of Pakistan’s people and leaders, the Pakistani military has carried out impressive counterinsurgency operations over the past 10 months. The Army and the Frontier Corps have, during that time, cleared the Taliban from Swat District – which I visited three weeks ago – and from other areas of the Northwest Frontier Province, as well. Now they are holding, building, and beginning to transition in those areas. They have also carried out impressive operations in South Waziristan, home to the former Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the extremist elements that assassinated Benazir Bhutto and blew up thousands of innocent Pakistanis and security force members in recent years. And they have carried out good operations in some other areas of the FATA, as well, including in Bajaur Agency.
These latter operations have been carefully coordinated with ISAF forces in Regional Command-East, and that coordination enabled RC-East elements to engage extremists who fled Pakistani operations and crossed the Durand Line into Afghanistan.
In short, Pakistani forces have been carrying out an impressive campaign. And the Pakistani forces and people have suffered tough losses during the course of it. We recognize the need for considerable assistance to Pakistan as they continue their operations, and we will continue to work with Congress in seeking ways to support Pakistan’s military.
Our focus has, in fact, been on supporting the Pakistani forces. We are providing various forms of assistance, but it is the Pakistanis who are doing the fighting on the ground. Our task – as Secretary Gates has observed – has to be to show that we are going to be a steadfast partner, that we are not going to do to Pakistan what we’ve done before – such as after “Charlie Wilson’s War” – when we provided a substantial amount of assistance and then left precipitously, leaving Pakistan to deal with a situation we’d helped create. It is therefore important that we provide a sustained, substantial commitment. And that is what we’re endeavoring to do, with your support. The Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill does that by providing $1.5 billion in economic assistance per year for five years. The provision of Coalition Support Funding, Foreign Military Financing, the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund, and other forms of security assistance provide further critical assistance for Pakistan’s security forces. All together, this funding and our assistance demonstrate America’s desire to strengthen this important strategic partnership and help our Pakistani colleagues.
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