State Dept. optimistic about counterterrorism cooperation in Pakistan

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In spite of Pakistan's strained relationship with the United States, the State Department is optimistic about counterterrorism cooperation between the countries, said Daniel Benjamin, the department's coordinator for counterterrorism.

Benjamin spoke at an April 18 hearing of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation and trade.

He said he hoped Pakistan can "get over the tensions of the past," such as the disagreement about U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, in order to improve the relationship.

On April 12, Pakistan's parliament unanimously passed a resolution that, among other things, called for an end to U.S. drone strikes in Pakistani territory.

Despite this, Benjamin told the subcommittee that the relationship between the United States and Pakistan is heading in the right direction.

Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) said that Pakistan's resolution represents "a pretty firm position of non-cooperation." But Benjamin pointed out that the resolution is nonbinding and that the U.S. government is seeking to find out how the Pakistani government plans to act upon it.

Additionally, Benjamin assessed how the Arab Spring has affected counterterrorism cooperation. He singled out Tunisia as a country where it has significantly improved and noted that his office plans to conduct Antiterrorism Assistance Program training in Tunisia.

As for Libya, he characterized the relationship on counterterrorism as "good but nascent." For Egypt, Benjamin noted that political upheaval poses a challenge to counterterrorism cooperation but expressed optimism that cooperation will continue.

For more:
- go to the hearing webpage
- watch the archived webcast on Ustream

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