Kerry: Administration lacks 'real strategy' for handling Pakistan

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman says no adequate plan for Pakistan.

ByABC News
April 22, 2009, 11:38 AM

April 22, 2009 -- WASHINGTON — Just back from a visit to Pakistan, Sen. John Kerry says the Obama administration's plan for that volatile country, rolled out last month with great fanfare, "is not a real strategy."

"Pakistan is in a moment of peril," Kerry, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said during a session with USA TODAY reporters and editors. "And I believe there is not in place yet an adequate policy or plan to deal with it."

In an interview after the session, Kerry advised the Obama administration to stop using the term "Af-Pak," to describe a unified strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, because "I think it does a disservice to both countries and to the policy. The two governments, he said, are "very sensitive to it" and "don't see the linkage."

Kerry's spokesman, Frederick Jones, said that the presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan are scheduled to embark on a rare joint visit to the U.S. for meetings in May, and Kerry plans to host them for lunch May 7.

Richard Holbrooke, President Obama's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has said the United States must have a unified strategy for both countries, which share a mountainous border region that is a hotbed of Taliban and al-Qaeda activity.

Kerry's comments amounted to one of the sharpest appraisals by a Democrat of one of Obama's signature foreign policies. They marked a change from his initial reaction to Obama's announcement of his plan for the region in a speech March 27, when Kerry issued a statement calling it "realistic and bold."

"Obviously the president disagrees with the chairman on this, and the issues he raised are being aggressively worked in the president's new strategy," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said in an e-mail.

As an example of how he believes counterinsurgency strategy is lacking, Kerry cited the example of a recent Pakistan army operation in Peshawar.

"The army went in, they expended a lot of energy for us, some lives, and you know, nothing came in underneath it — absolutely nothing. So you're going to wind up with a bunch of folks who are going to hate you.