Washington: The presence of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan`s tribal areas and Islamabad`s reluctance to take action against Haqqani network poses a significant challenge to the US in the region, a top American Senator said on Friday.
"In many of my meetings, I raise the Haqqani issue. We discuss the insurgents` safe havens in Pakistan and how to best address them. They obviously remain a significant challenge absent a strategic shift in Pakistan`s thinking and ability to take on groups like the Haqqanis," Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Menendez, who recently replaced John Kerry as the Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has just returned from his maiden trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan in this new capacity.
In Pakistan, Menendez held meetings with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani.
"Afghans and Pakistanis don`t want us to stay as an occupier, which we have no intention or desire, but they also don`t want us to abandon them," he said.
"....We need to make clear to our Afghan and Pakistani partners that the United States will be committed in Afghanistan even as we draw our forces and leave behind a residual presence," Menendez said.
Meanwhile, another American Senator opposed any move to cut the US aid to the country arguing that this would further alienate Islamabad from Washington.
"It is important..That we try to continue to maintain some relationship with Pakistanis. I`m not one who thinks we need to cut off aid to the Pakistanis because of that. If we cut off aid to them then they`re going to get their financial resources from somewhere. And it will just further alienate, in my opinion, the Pakistan-US relationship," Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss said.
Responding to questions at the American Enterprise Institute - a Washington-based think-tank - Chambliss feared that the nuclear weapons in Pakistan could land into wrong hands in case of a terrorist takeover of the country.
"What I do have a great fear of is a terrorist getting their hands on tactical nuclear weapons that were not dealt with in START and delivering those weapons to the United States or to an asset of the United States somewhere. Pakistan has tactical weapons that are available to it.
"And if Pakistan falls, then the terrorist have much more access to tactical weapons that would be a problem to the world and particularly to the United States," said Chambliss, Ranking Member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
"I think it`s important that we continue the dialogue with the Pakistanis," he said in response to a question.