Biden Travels on Fact-Finding Mission for Obama
The United States Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan has confirmed Mr.Joseph Biden's visit, but gave few details as it cited security reasons. The United States has a strong interest in Pakistan to maintain the stability of its civilian government.
Since the Mumbai attacks in November last year, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, her deputy John Negroponte and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have visited the countries in the region.
Mr. Biden leads a delegation, which included Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Susan Collins (R-Me), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to southwest Asia as the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama reviews U.S. policy on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region.
On Jan. 8, the U.S. State Department has called on the nuclear-armed neighbors to increase cooperation, particularly over the investigation of the Mumbai terror attacks.
It is significant that Mr. Joseph Biden (D-Del) is traveling as a Senator and the outgoing Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations on a fact-finding mission for the incoming Obama's administration.
Interestingly, Mr. Biden's travel is based on the two positions that he has held in the Senate, particularly as the outgoing Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which reviews US foreign policies and approves or disapproves funding support of particular nation(s). In this regard, Mr. Biden has the freedom, so to speak, to ask questions that won't be misinterpreted and inflamed as if they're coming from a formal US position since the current Bush administration is still in power. He is not articulating an official United States foreign policy.
Mr. Biden's delegation along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R -S.C.), who is a member of the U.S. Armed Services Committee arrived in Islamabad, Pakistan, late Friday, Jan. 9, just 11 days before Mr. Biden will be sworn in as the U.S. Vice-President on Jan.20.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said on Friday Pakistan had sent India a response to evidence from the Mumbai attacks as US Vice President-elect Joe Biden arrived on a trip aimed at easing tension in South Asia.
Mr. Biden has told Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari that the United States regards Pakistan as an "important ally and partner" in the war on terrorism.
Biden told President Asif Ali Zardari the new U.S. administration wanted to support Pakistani stability and its nascent democracy while Zardari briefed Biden on efforts in the campaign against militancy, his office said.
A U.S. counter-terrorism official said in Washington on Thursday al Qaeda's operations chief in Pakistan, Usama al-Kini, and a top aide were believed to be dead.
As a reminder, Pakistan has been embroiled in a tense confrontation with neighboring India, also a major U.S. ally, over allegations that a Pakistan-based Islamist group was behind the three-day siege of Mumbai in November, 2008, that left more than 170 people dead.
India has suggested that some Pakistan state agencies, namely the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were involved, which Mr. Zardari and other officials have vehemently denied.
Ties between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India deteriorated sharply after coordinated attacks by 10 gunmen on the Indian city of Mumbai in late November that killed 179 people.
India blamed Pakistani militants from the outset. But Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said this week for the first time that the assault must have had the support of "some official agencies" in Pakistan.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on Friday described the Indian decision to “freeze” the composite dialogue process in the wake of the Mumbai attacks as “regrettable,” and urged the world not to let tensions between the two countries escalate.
Senators Biden and Graham also plan to travel to Afghanistan in the next several days. The two senators along with the others hope to persuade the Pakistan and Afghan authorities for tougher commitments to the battle against Islamist extremism.
The United States is preparing to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan to bolster the protracted war against Taliban insurgents. The increased number would nearly double the current U.S. troop presence.
Pakistani officials have warned that if there was risk of conflict with India it would move forces from its border with Afghanistan, where they are fighting Taliban and al Qaeda militants.
The United States has sought to stop tensions between India and Pakistan from escalating and fears a conflict could distract Pakistan from solving the al Quaeda and Taliban insurgent problems in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.
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