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Olson to focus on Haqqani network crackdown

July 31, 2012

WASHINGTON, July 31: America’s ambassador-designate for Islamabad, Richard Olson, told his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that he would focus on persuading Pakistan to crack down on the Haqqani network.

Ambassador Olson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that stopping cross-border attacks into Afghanistan was necessary for defeating Al Qaeda, which was “virtually within grasp”.

Pakistan, he said, should do more to curb the activities of the Haqqani network, which used Fata for launching attacks into Afghanistan.

The ambassador said that persuading Pakistan to crack down on the Haqqani network would be his “most urgent” priority.

Mr Olson observed that the reopening of Nato supply lines to Afghanistan had created a new opportunity for rebuilding US-Pakistan ties and he would try to avail this for promoting bilateral cooperation.

This relationship, although “extremely difficult” was “important for both of our nations”, he said. The committee also heard from James Cunningham, the nominated US Ambassador to Afghanistan, noting that the two nominations came at a time of transition in Afghanistan and recent diplomatic tensions between Islamabad and Washington.

The nominees need to be confirmed by the Senate before they can be sworn in.

“Pakistan, in particular, remains central to that effort,” said the committee’s chairman Senator John Kerry.

The senator pointed out that many Pakistanis still believed that “America will simply once again abandon the region as we did after the fall of the Soviet Union.” And this was “one reason why Pakistan continues to hedge its bets and rely on certain insurgent groups for strategic depth,” he added. This fear, he said, has been the result of “a counterproductive back and forth — point and counterpoint — that undermines what really ought to be a more cooperative relationship.”