Biden to Pakistan: Restore Democratic Freedoms Or Lose US Funding

Des Moines, Iowa---After a nearly 40 minute stump speech to over 100 caucus
goers at the Des Moines Zoo Sunday night, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Democratic presidential candidate Senator Joe Biden gave HuffPost's OffTheBus his prescription for solving the current and dangerous situation in Pakistan: Restore democratic freedoms or you don't get the military aircraft or an annual $1 Billion check from the U.S.

Senator Biden:
"I just spoke with former [Pakistani] Prime Minister Mrs.
Bhutto this morning to discuss the situation. I fear what will happen if he [Musharraf] forces the vast majority of Pakistani moderates to move in league with the more radical elements to overthrow him and then we'll have a similar circumstance we had with the Shah twenty-five years ago - where you have the moderates in league with the ore radical elements to get rid of a figure that is despotic in their view - and that's what's going to be my message to Musharraf tomorrow [Monday morning] when he calls me and that was my discussion that I had with Bhutto today."

HuffPost's OffTheBus: Do you have an ally in Mrs. Bhutto? You said you spoke with her this morning.

Senator Biden: "I have an ally in a sense that Mrs. Bhutto wants - she took a bit of a risk and as did Musharraf - he originally dropped all the criminal charges and corruption charges [against her] and in turn, she
agreed to come back and hold free elections. So, the key to this is - this
is still able to be dealt with, if in fact, Martial Law is lifted relatively quickly and he [Musharraf] assures the world that there will be general elections held for the parliament within 60 days. I think we can get by this and we can begin to form this new coalition that may be possible to keep radicalization of Pakistan from occurring."

HuffPost's OffTheBus: What would you do as President to restore democracy in Pakistan?

Senator Biden: "Yes. Look, Musharraf is not an independent actor. Musharraf is in a situation where the military, it matters to the military, if they have the P3's, these aircraft and these F16s [that the U.S. has promised to
deliver] and I would make it clear that if he, in fact, is going to continue to keep Marshall Law in place and not hold these parliamentary elections. If I were president, I'd make it clear I would withhold these sales. Because I think you're going to see a lot of pressure build, not only in the Pakistani society but within the Pakistani military, if he in fact starts to jeopardize their relative strength relative to India.

HuffPost's OffTheBus: Do you have a relationship with Musharraf?

Senator Biden: "Yes. When I said relationship, I've met with him many times and he
knows who I am, I know him well, we've spoken. I had a similar conversation
with the head of the security service for the Pakistan, a general at the
time, a day after 9/11. He was in town and I called the Ambassador and
insisted on speaking to him and I made it clear to him as one senator,
Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, that they had to withdraw
their support of the Pashto and the Taliban and if they didn't, they'd be
in real trouble....I think we have to have straight talk with these people."

HuffPost's OffTheBus:And if he doesn't, other than not sending the P3's, I mean we spend a lot of money over there - a billion dollars.

Senator Biden: "Yes...we send $1 Billion dollars there and it has to be tied
to continued democracy and cooperation for the money he's been given.

What I would be doing is what I've been arguing that we should do if I were
President for the last four years. We should be beefing up our presence in
Afghanistan. We should be changing our mix of troops in Afghanistan including intelligence assets as well as Special Forces.

We should be moving into position where we demonstrate not only to the
Europeans, who will then join us more in Afghanistan, but also to Musharraf
to embolden him to begin to cooperate with us more than he has been doing.

I believe this Administration is part of the problem. This administration, when it walked away from Afghanistan figuratively speaking, I think that was a sign to Musharraf, I'd better cut my deal with these folks, and I think that began the unraveling of this and the greater radicalization of Pakistani society.

I think if we were to demonstrate that we were there to stay in Afghanistan
and put the proper mix of forces in Afghanistan, I think you'd see
Musharraf much more emboldened to cooperate with us for the money he's been

HuffPost's OffTheBus: "We also have a situation in Turkey with the Kurds. The
Turkish government is really on edge and has requested that the United
States to get involved. If you were president, how would you respond?"

Senator Biden: I know you know this but your listeners or readers may not
know this, the fact is the PKK, which is the radical element of the Kurds,
has been very engaged in trying to destabilize the situation in eastern

There are about 4 million Kurds there. I think we should have - a long time
ago - been reassuring the Kurds that we were in no way supportive of the

I would be putting significant pressure - and I've had this discussion with
Talibani [Iraqi President Jalal Talibani] in my office personally, that
they have to step up to the ball, stop providing havens for the PKK.

But we have a little bit of a problem. The PKK is sitting on the Iranian
border as well as on the Turkey border, but I think, we should have as a
policy non-support of the PKK and use our assets to help identify where
they are and not allowing them sanctuary...and I think that's the
demonstration we have to make to the Turks, they are our NATO ally."