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Kerry: Pakistan Is Key to Reinforcing Withdrawal Kerry: Pakistan Is Key to Reinforcing Withdrawal

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Defense / foreign affairs

Kerry: Pakistan Is Key to Reinforcing Withdrawal

June 23, 2011

In the absence of a military solution in Afghanistan, it’s time to move on the diplomatic front, says Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

Following President Obama’s announcement Wednesday night of his plan to withdraw 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the administration’s policy “appropriate” and said that now it’s time to deal with the politics in the region.

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe Thursday, Kerry argued that it's necessary now to "shift and work on the regional diplomatic front, including the 'stans, Russia, and China, Iran, India, and most importantly, Pakistan."

 

In his opening statement at the committee's hearing on Wednesday, Kerry said the U.S. has to work with the Pakistanis "where our interests converge -- and frankly we have to understand where they don't."

"Reducing our footprint in Afghanistan -- coupled with the kind of high-level diplomacy Secretary Clinton engaged in when she went there last month -- should open the door for new talks on a range of topics, from reconciliation to shutting down extremist sanctuaries," Kerry said.

Obama's strategy to bring home the 33,000 surge troops by next summer is a "testament" to the success of the overall war effort, but it's time to take a broader approach, Kerry said. "The bottom line is no number of troops will resolve the challenge of Afghanistan. ... Now is the time to work with the Afghan leaders and all of their neighbors to find the political solution to this conflict. We cannot do this in a vacuum. As we talk with the Taliban, we have to pursue a vigorous diplomatic strategy with Pakistan, India, Russia, China and other nations in the region. We need to listen closely to the Afghans and Pakistanis and work with them to protect our national interests."

Kerry, who on Tuesday teamed up with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to introduce a resolution aimed at giving the administration limited authority in Libya for a year, criticized efforts in the House to take on the president over this issue and argued that this is not a time to play politics.

The Massachusetts Democrat called the House resolution to cut off funding for direct U.S. military actions “disgraceful” and “contrary to our best interests.”

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