(CNN)- Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari Tuesday is rejecting U.S. concerns some of his country's nuclear weapons are at risk of being acquired by members of the Taliban.
"They are in safe hands," Zardari told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in a Tuesday interview on The Situation Room. "There is a command and control system under the president of Pakistan.
The comments come two days after the New York Times reported senior American officials are increasingly worried Taliban militants could acquire unsecured weapons in Pakistan's arsenal. The concerns have particularly grown in the last several weeks after Taliban forces Buner, a district 60 miles from Islamabad, Pakistan's capital.
In the interview with CNN, Zardari said the region is not at risk of falling into the Taliban's control.
"We have a 700,000 [man] army. How could they take over?" he said.
Zardari also brushed aside U.S. concerns Taliban sympathizers within Pakistan's army could help the organization acquire some of the country's nuclear weapons.
"There aren't any, sir, sympathizers for them," he said. "There is a mindset in the local area maybe who feel they are akin to the same religion, God, etc, etc. But nothing that should concern anybody as far as the nuclear arsenal or other instruments of such sort."
Zardari also reacted to the New York Times' report that Pakistani officials have repeatedly denied American requests for more information on the location of the country's nuclear weapons.
"I think it's on a need-to-know basis information," he said of the weapons' location. "If it comes up we might and I might not share it with them, it depends."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Concerns over recent Taliban gains in Pakistan and Afghanistan are taking center stage on Capitol Hill Tuesday as President Obama's point man for the region testifies before a key House committee.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai will also be visiting key congressional leaders and policymakers in advance of meetings with Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later this week.
The visits are part of a series of tri-lateral meetings aimed at coordinating strategy in the region.
Obama's special representative to the region, veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke, is expected tell members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that increased military and civilian aid is urgently needed in Pakistan.
Obama said last week that Pakistan's government appears "very fragile" and noted that it doesn't "seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services." The president argued that the United States has "huge national
security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable" and doesn't end up a "nuclear-armed militant state."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As Pakistani forces continue to battle an advancing Taliban, the leading senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced legislation Monday tripling aid to the country.
The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, introduced by Senators John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and Dick Lugar, R-Indiana, authorizes $7.5 billion in non-military aid to Pakistan over the next five years to foster economic growth and development, and another $7.5 billion for the following five years.
The $1.5 billion per year would triple U.S. non-military aid levels, currently at $500 million per year. In the past, U.S. military aid has surpassed economic and other assistance. The legislation also would separate military from non-military aid, promising that economic aid "is no longer the poor cousin to military aid."
In a statement released Monday, the senators said they aim to build "a deeper, broader, long-term strategic engagement with the people," rather than just the leaders of Pakistan, acknowledging past U.S. aid to the country had been tied to political events, "sending mixed messages and leading most Pakistanis to question both our intentions and our staying power."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama will meet with the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan on Wednesday to "accelerate the process of cooperation between the two countries," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced Friday.
Obama will hold separate meetings and a joint summit with President Karzai of Afghanistan and President Zardari of Pakistan at the White House, Gibbs announced during Friday's daily press briefing.
"The president looks forward to discussing with these two democratically elected leaders how we can work together to enhance our cooperation in this important part of the world as the United States implements a new strategy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan," Gibbs said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Wednesday that Pakistan is in danger of falling into terrorist hands because of failed government policies, and called on Pakistani citizens and expatriates to voice more concern.
"I think that we cannot underscore the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by continuing advances, now within hours of Islamabad, that are being made by a loosely confederated group of terrorists and others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistani state, a nuclear-armed state," Clinton said in an appearance before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"I don't hear that kind of outrage and concern coming from enough people that would reverberate back within the highest echelons of the civilian and military leadership of Pakistan."
In her first congressional hearing since being confirmed, Clinton told the panel the chief goal of the Obama administration's strategy is to defeat al Qaeda and prevent it from returning to Afghanistan.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – On the same day that President Obama reiterated his commitment to strike high-value targets inside Pakistan’s borders, two of his senior aides who are intimately involved with pursuing U.S. strategy in the area spoke frankly about the challenges posed by Pakistan.
“Well, we have had our ups and downs,” CENTCOM Commander Gen. David Petraeus said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union when asked whether there was trust between the U.S. and Pakistani governments.
“How much more difficult is it if you can’t be sure that you share a secret?” CNN Chief National Correspondent John King asked U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke, who appeared together with Petraeus on the program. “You share some sensitive information with somebody in Pakistan and there is a history of this information being passed on to the security services and then in some cases pass on to al Qaeda and the Taliban?”
“Well, of course, you’re absolutely, right,” Holbrooke responded. “It’s a huge concern for General Petraeus and me.” Holbrooke also noted that Leon Panetta made his first overseas trip as CIA director to the Pakistan region. “This is going to be his focus,” Holbrooke added.
Holbrooke also said Sunday that the U.S. intended to work on “the trust deficit” between the U.S. and Pakistan. “The relationship between Pakistan and the United States is immensely complicated and it isn’t quite where it should be,” the seasoned diplomat told King.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama said Sunday that his administration remains prepared to order strikes against "high-value" targets within Pakistan.
Obama reiterated a previous assertion that the U.S. military would pursue extremists within Pakistan's borders after consulting with the Pakistani government.
The U.S. policy doesn't change American recognition of Pakistan's "sovereign government," Obama said during an appearance on CBS's "Face the Nation." But the United States needs to hold that government "more accountable."
"This is going to be hard," he added. "I'm under no illusions."
Obama said his administration remains determined to weaken or destroy al Qaeda until it no longer presents a threat to the United States.
He added that his administration is prepared to constantly adjust its strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan as necessary.
(CNN) - NATO countries must create a comprehensive approach to oust al Qaeda, the Taliban and other extremists from Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday after a meeting with NATO members.
"The imperative of a comprehensive approach with a strong civilian and diplomatic effort is necessary because we know there is no purely military solution to either Afghanistan or Pakistan," Biden told reporters at a news conference after the sessions at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
The vice president was consulting with members of the North Atlantic Council, the main decision-making body within NATO, ahead of a NATO summit April 3-4 in Germany and France.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Richard Holbrooke, the administration's new envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan will make his first trip to the region next week, the State Department said Thursday.
Holbrooke will travel to South Asia after attending a security conference in Munich, Germany, acting department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters.
Although his schedule was not set, he was expected to travel to Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was unclear whether he would travel to neighboring India, which is still engaged in a tense standoff with Pakistan after the December terror attacks in Mumbai.
Wood said that Holbrooke will "touch base with various leaders in the region, and also to hear what they have to say in terms of what needs to be done to improve the situation."
Holbrooke's trip comes as the the administration is undertaking a review of its policy toward Afghanistan. President Obama has called Afghanistan the "central front" in the war on terror and has promised to make fighting extremism there, and in neighboring Pakistan, a foreign policy priority. He is expected to send as many as 30,000 additional U.S. troops to battle Taliban forces.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) - Seventeen people were killed Friday evening in two U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan's tribal region, said one government and two military officials.
They are the first such strikes since President Obama took office Tuesday.
Both hits were near the Afghan border, said local political official Nasim Dawar. The Pakistani military sources asked not to be named because they are not authorized to release such information.
The first strike, which killed 10 people, occurred about 5:15 p.m. (7:15 a.m. ET) in a village near Mir Ali in North Waziristan, the officials said. Seven people died in the second hit at 7:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. ET) near Wana, the major town in South Waziristan, 17 miles (27 kilometers) from Afghanistan, they said.
There has been no immediate response from U.S. officials.