Washington: A top American lawmaker has expressed concern over Pakistan's growing nuclear stockpile, saying the Asian country continues to harbour and host insurgents and other extremist groups.
"Pakistan continues to harbour and host insurgents and other extremists in the Afghan border regions. Making matters worse, Pakistan's intelligence service is known to cooperate with the Taliban as it works to undermine Afghanistan's stability," Congresswoman Ilena Ros-Lehtinen said during a Congressional hearing.
"Even more concerning, Pakistan's nuclear weapons stockpile is reportedly growing faster than any other in the world and is notoriously insecure," she said, chairing a Congressional hearing on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"Security concerns with Pakistan are also not helped when the Afghan government cannot form a cabinet, including key positions like defence minister. A weak and corrupt government, combined with incapable security forces, does not indicate a positive path forward," she said.
Congressman Ted Deutch said US lawmakers continue to have long-standing concerns over the ability of insurgents to operate in Pakistan and across the border into Afghanistan.
"I've been encouraged by Pakistan's military operations in North Waziristan. Even the most skeptical among us have to acknowledge that it has disrupted operations emanating from the North Waziristan agency, especially for the Pakistani Taliban.
"At the same time, while progress has been made in disrupting the Haqqani network's operations in the tribal areas, both the Haqqani network and Lakshar al-Taiba are responsible for the deaths of Americans," he said.
"The question is, can Pakistan rid its country of terrorism without going after terrorists wholesale. And despite the mistrust and tensions, we need cooperation from Pakistani security services, as well as strong communication with Pakistan's civilian leadership," Deutch said.
He said the Congress authorised USD 7.5 billion via the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill to assist in strengthening Pakistan civilian institutions.
In his testimony, Deputy Special Representative of State for Af-Pak Jarret Blanc said that the US-Pak bilateral relationship is full of both opportunity and challenges.
"But the bottom line is that our relationship is vital to the national security of the United States, we have many shared long-term interests in both economic and security cooperation, and our policy of sustained engagement to date has yielded tangible incremental results," he said.
"A stable, prosperous Pakistan that plays a constructive role in the region is in both our countries' interests, and has an acute effect on the region," he said, adding Pakistan is a complex democracy, representing 190 million people and grappling with substantial security challenges.