WASHINGTON – A US senator visiting Islamabad said Friday he is pressing Pakistan to reduce the flow of an explosives material used in roadside bombs that wound and kill hundreds of US soldiers in Afghanistan.
Senator Robert Casey said in a conference call that his talks with civilian and military leaders as well as senators focused on having Pakistan implement its strategy to cut shipments of ammonium nitrate or fertilizer.
“I want to see their strategy implemented, and then we’ll be able to better assess it. But they have not implemented a strategy yet, and… that’s one of the reasons I’m over here,” Casey told reporters.
But he added: “I think we made real progress impressing upon the Pakistani leadership our sense of urgency to get results on this strategy to reduce the flow of ammonium nitrate into Afghanistan.”
He said the strategy involves better law enforcement, greater Pakistani public awareness of the threat posed by the chemicals, tracking the material better by dyeing it a certain color and better border interdiction.
“We have been told they will begin the implementation of this plan this fall, but not a date per se,” Casey said after meeting Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Pakistan’s army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.
Casey, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, He said last year 368 US servicemen and women were injured or killed by the bombs, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Some 125 Americans have been killed this year by IEDs, he added.
“It is very, very rare that someone who is killed in action is not killed by an IED,” he said.
“And that’s why we’ve got to take steps to focus intensively on a strategy against this kind of explosive device and the main ingredient in that explosive device,” Casey added.
Casey said his Pakistani interlocutors still disagreed strongly with the secret May 2 US raid that killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan but were determined not to let it destroy their counter-terror cooperation.
“What I think came through today and yesterday was their willingness … just to look beyond this and to move… forward,” Casey said, adding the raid that violated Pakistani sovereignty will always be “a point of contention.”