Blumenthal on first congressional trip–to Pakistan

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is on his first official congressionally-sponsored trip abroad. He and three other Democratic senators are in Pakistan, where they recently met with top political and military leaders.

Blumenthal, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a phone interview from Islamabad that the meetings focused on disrupting terrorist networks operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The trip is “an opportunity to make a difference,” in strengthening the U.S. relationship with Pakistan and in ensuring a cooperative effort in combating terrorism, he said. The delegation met with Pakistan’s prime minister, its defense minister, the army chief of staff, and leaders of parliament.

Asked about Pakistan’s ability and willingness to live up to its commitments, Blumenthal said the conversations he and the rest of the delegation had were “very encouraging.”

He added that “there’s no question that the relationship between our governments needs to be improved. But there’s also no doubt that we have a common interest” in fighting extremists.

He’s on the trip with Sens. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Michael Bennet of Colorado. Blumenthal said the group arrived yesterday at 3 am and will be in Islamabad for one more day for more meetings, before heading to another destination. He couldn’t disclose the next leg of the trip for safety and security considerations.