Sen Rand Paul holds up Olson confirmation process over Afridi issue | Pakistan Today

Sen Rand Paul holds up Olson confirmation process over Afridi issue

The State Department and Democratic leadership in the Senate are seeking earliest approval of Richard Olson as US ambassador to Pakistan, after Senator Rand Paul held up confirmation of the diplomat over Dr Shakil Afridi issue.
“Democrats and Republicans always say that the key to Afghanistan is securing cooperation with Pakistan. That’s reason enough to have a top-notch diplomat in place in Islamabad,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts, advocated.
Reports in the American media say Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, objected to the nomination, pushing off Olson’s confirmation until at least September.
Paul’s hold on the Olson nomination is part of his move to pressurize the Pakistani government for release Shakil Afridi, the doctor who worked with the CIA to trace out Osama bin Laden.
The nominations of both Olson and James Cunningham to be the next ambassador to Pakistan and Afghanistan, respectively, were at risk of not being included in the string of nominations confirmed by the Senate by unanimous consent late Thursday, just before senators adjourned for a five-week recess, The Cable reported on the Foreign Policy magazine website.
The outgoing U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, whose health is declining, intervened and made calls on behalf of Cunningham and Olson, but only Cunningham got confirmed.
Kerry, however, called for quick action on the nomination.
“This is a complicated relationship that demands constant attention. We’ve been working day and night with Pakistan to build a stable economy and strengthen our engagement with its people, and after such a tumultuous year, this is exactly the wrong time to leave such an important post vacant. I can’t think of a good reason for doing so. We recognized the importance of this position and expedited it out of committee and I urge the Senate to move this nomination through as quickly as possible when we return from the recess,” Kerry said.
Paul is not only holding up the confirmation of the U.S. ambassador, he is also threatening to force a vote to cut all U.S. aid to Pakistan over the sentencing of Dr Afridi. However, Senate leadership is dead-set against letting Paul have a vote on his amendment.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Policy magazine report claimed that Olson would be heading to Islamabad to work as the charge d’affairs.
A report in The Hill said the State Department, while expressing confidence in the current acting ambassador, Richard Hoagland, (the deputy chief of mission), has said it is working closely with Senate for swift confirmation process for Ambassador Olson.
“President Obama nominated Richard Olson to serve as ambassador to Pakistan because he has a unique combination of experience, skill, and wisdom to successfully represent our nation in Islamabad. Both President Obama and Secretary Clinton remain strong supporters of his nomination,” a State Department official told The Hill, a Capitol Hill publication.
“While we are disappointed that Ambassador Olson was not confirmed on Thursday, we are working closely with the Senate to ensure a swift and smooth confirmation process and hope Ambassador Olson will assume this critical post soon.”

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