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Top US senator warns that failure in Afghanistan, Pakistan could bring danger

Top US senator warns that failure in Afghanistan, Pakistan could bring danger

The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee warned Monday that failure in Afghanistan or Pakistan could cripple NATO.
"Many of our NATO allies thought they were signing up for a peacekeeping mission, not counter-insurgency operation," Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden told a luncheon crowd at the Council on Foreign Relations. "It is time for NATO to be fully in the fight. I believe that the future of NATO is at stake _ in Afghanistan."
Biden was just back from a trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he said the stakes are as high as they have ever been for the future of the two nations, NATO and the United States.
With the recent election in Pakistan favoring opposition candidates, President Pervez Musharraf seemed willing to leave office peaceably, Biden said.
"I think he will go gently into the good night," Biden said.
"Afghanistan must never again become a safe haven for al-Qaida. But just as important, if Afghanistan fails, Pakistan could follow, because extremists will set their sights on the bigger prize to the east," he said.
The parties of assassinated Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and another opposition leader, former premier Nawaz Sharif, won a majority of the seats in the new parliament and were expected to form a coalition government. But they fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to impeach Musharraf.
Musharraf's spokesman, Rashid Qureshi, told Dawn News television in Pakistan on Monday that the Pakistani leader would not respond to any suggestion by a U.S. senator that he should withdraw from the presidency quietly and gracefully. Some Pakistani leaders and many media commentators also have called for Musharraf, a key U.S. ally against terrorism, to resign.
Biden urged a huge boost in U.S. spending on reconstructing Afghanistan, putting a single person in charge of reconstruction and focusing on arresting drug kingpins there.
"We have spent on Afghanistan's reconstruction in six years what we spend every three weeks on military operations in Iraq," he said. "Roads bind people together. They allow farmers to get products to market. They bring prices down and access to goods and services up _ they connect people to their government."
"How do you spell hope in Dari and Pashtu? A-S-P-H-A-L-T," he added.
Biden, who pulled out of race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination at the start of the year, said he was not seeking to become the next vice president or secretary of state.
"I think I could be a very good partner as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a Democratic president. And I think I could be a significant hedge against the mistakes of a Republican administration in a Democratically-controlled Congress," he said.
Biden said, however, that he would be "hard pressed to say no" to either job if one of the Democratic candidates, Sens. Barack Obama or Hillary Rodham Clinton, asked him to be a running mate or to join their administration.
"The last thing I want is to be 'considered,'" he said. "If you're going to do it, just ask me. Don't consider me."


Updated : 2021-03-01 00:40 GMT+08:00