STATEMENT OF_GENERAL JOSEPH L.VOTELCOMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND BEFORE THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE ON
*THE POSTURE OF U.S CENTRAL COMMAND GREAT POWER COMPETITION: THE CURRENT AND FUTURE CHALLENGES IN THE MIDDLE EAST
5 FEBRUARY 2019
*Pakistan presents the U.S. with challenges and opportunities in the execution of our South Asia
Strategy. As a state possessing nuclear weapons that sits at the nexus of Russian, Chinese, Indian,
Iranian, and U.S. geopolitical interests, Pakistan will always be a country of importance to the U.S.
However, Pakistan’s actions are often a source of frustration to U.S. regional efforts in Afghanistan.
Our posture with Pakistan involves supporting our colleagues at the Department of State as they pursue
a diplomatic solution with Islamabad to end the conflict in Afghanistan while ensuring that Pakistan’s equities are acknowledged and addressed in any future agreement.
Key Challenges: Pakistan has not taken concrete actions against the safe havens of VEOs inside its
borders. Similarly, VEOs located in Afghanistan conduct attacks inside Pakistan. This cross-border
instability and violence generates tension along both sides of the border. The suspension of U.S. security
assistance funds to Pakistan remains in place. Meanwhile, some U.S. Pakistan military cooperation activities have continued, demonstrating the importance of military cooperation, despite challenges in the bilateral relationship.
*Key Opportunities: Pakistan has taken positive steps to assist SRAR Ambassador Khalilzad in
support of Afghanistan reconciliation by facilitating talks with the Taliban but has avoided taking any
concrete or irreversible steps such as arresting or expelling Taliban leaders who do not cooperate with
reconciliation efforts. With our strategic focus on reconciliation and regional security, Pakistan has a unique opportunity to make good on its promises of support to U.S. efforts focused on finding a negotiated settlement to the Afghanistan conflict. If Pakistan plays a positive role in achieving a settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, the U.S. will have opportunity and motive to help Pakistan Fulfill that role, as peace in the region is the most important mutual priority for the U.S. and Pakistan.
*2019 Prognosis: A peaceful resolution in Afghanistan and improved cross-border security between
Afghanistan and Pakistan would strengthen the opportunity for mutual trade and increased economic
flows not only between them, but also potentially with India and the Central Asian states. China is
already partnering with Pakistan for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as a central piece of China’s “One Belt – One Road” initiative. Central and South Asia cooperation between the U.S. and China offers opportunities for peaceful dialogue and a chance for the U.S. to balance China’s economic rise and reinforce its commitment to global norms for the benefit all.
China uses its “One Belt – One Road” initiative as an economic lever to provide access and
influence across the Central Region. China invested in Suez Canal development, the port of Haifa in
Israel, and Jordan to provide access, relationships and leverage on the other side of the continent. In the United Arab Emirates, it invested in the Free Trade Zone area and the Khalifa Port to create a regional hub in the Arabian Gulf. China built a naval support base in the country of Djibouti to expand its presence and access to the Red Sea, Suez Canal, and Bab al Mandeb. In Pakistan, China financed and gained access to the Gwadar Port enabling access to the Arabian Sea. In Oman, China is conducting port negotiations to obtain access to trade routes and energy transit corridors. For China, economic power is the primary tool, and while many “One Belt – One Road” projects do not pose direct threats to U.S. national interests, burgeoning Chinese economic power could support and mask longer-term military and political objectives.