By J. Taylor Rushing - 12/09/09 04:43 PM EST
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry
(D-Mass.) opened a committee hearing Wednesday with the declaration that
Pakistan is America's "core" challenge despite the wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan.
At a hearing to feature testimony by U.S. Central Commander Gen. David Petraeus, Kerry suggested Pakistan should remain America's main focus as it works to defeat al Qaeda and eventually capture or kill Osama bin Laden.
"Each of the challenges I have mentioned demand not only that America improve on our past performance, but also that our partners improve on theirs," Kerry told Petraeus. "This challenge is especially crucial when it comes to Pakistan. I am convinced that what happens in Pakistan, particularly near the Afghan border, will do more to determine the outcome in Afghanistan than any increase in troops or shift in strategy. Pakistan is, in many ways, the core of our challenge."
On Tuesday, Gen. Stanley McChrystal told the House Armed Services Committee that he did not recommend the mid-2011 withdrawal date of U.S. forces from Afghanistan but that he supports the deadline.
"I did not recommend that date. But I did identify to my leadership that I felt that 18 months — in about 18 months, about the summer of 2011, that we thought we could make significant progress against this insurgency," McChrystal told representatives.
Obama said he would begin sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in a few weeks, and that he would begin withdrawing them in 18 months.
Kerry's hearing features Petraeus along with the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry.
Committee members began questioning Petraeus about 11 a.m.