Oversight Hearing on a Regional Approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan

Posted on by Karina

Last week, President Obama outlined a comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. This morning, the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs held a hearing on understanding and engaging regional stakeholders in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Witnesses included:

Wendy J. Chamberlain – president, Middle East Institute, and former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan

Lisa Curtis – senior research fellow, South Asia, Asian Studies Center, The Heritage Foundation

Deepa M. Ollapally – associate director, Sigur Center for Asian Studies, George Washington University

Sean R. Roberts – director, International Development Studies Program, George Washington University

Karim Sadjadpour – associate, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Chairman John Tierney (D-MA) opened the hearing saying, “today, I hope, is a new day in Washington, as a regional security approach to South Asian security appears to now be on everyone’s mind. More importantly, President Obama just released a new Afghanistan/Pakistan strategy this past Friday that makes regional security a priority. Central to the Obama Administration’s new approach is that we must treat Afghanistan and Pakistan as two countries but one challenge. The President has also made it absolutely clear that we must pursue intensive regional diplomacy involving all key players in South Asia.”

Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) asked how increasing troops will impact diplomatic efforts in the region:

Rep. Welch:
“As I understand it, there’s basic unanimity that the Obama effort to reach out regionally and engage diplomatically is wise…what is the impact of the military policy, I think it’d have to be characterized as escalation, if we’re increasing the number of troops on the ground then that would be an escalation, what impact will that have on the diplomatic escalation that you all support?”
“There was a recent poll conducted in Afghanistan of people in Afghanistan asking them what is their greatest concern – and more than economic development, the majority of the population was concerned about their own security…We will not be achieve our goals of bringing stability to that region if the people do not feel secure in their communities, in their own homes.”

Chairman Tierney asked the witnesses about the advantages of engaging with countries in the region as a group versus individually on a bilateral basis:

Rep. Tierney:
“Is it the opinion of each of you that the issues are best dealt with through a sort of contact group approach, where the United States tries to convene all of these various parties and deal with issues jointly, or is it best approached on a bilateral basis or some mix of that?”
“There’s often a concern, whether it’s talking about Central Asia or the Middle East, from regional countries, that US goodwill is a zero sum game, and that the US could sell out Pakistani interests for Iranian interests if it’s only a bilateral discussion. So I think a multilateral format works well, and on the side there’s bilateral discussions.”

President Obama's Remarks on a New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan>>

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