US Vice President-elect Joe Biden will make a fact-finding trip to Southwest Asia this week along with four other senators, an aide in his Senate office said on Monday.
The aide did not name the countries on the delegation’s itinerary because of security considerations, but Pakistani media reports said the senators would pay a two-day visit to Pakistan, probably beginning on Friday. Afghanistan is likely to be another stop. Efforts to check whether the delegation would visit India proved unsuccessful.
Biden’s office said the senator from Delaware is making the trip in his capacity as outgoing chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Other members of the delegation include Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts, incoming chairman of the committee; Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island; Susan Collins, Republican from Maine; and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham. The last three are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
President-elect Barack Obama, who is to be sworn in on January 20, has said Afghanistan and Pakistan are the central front in the war on terrorism.
The Associated Press quoted an official as saying Biden is going now so that the new administration can be ready from its first day to deal with the region.
The report said the visit was suggested by the president-elect’s national security team.
But a private TV channel in Pakistan reported that Biden would try to defuse the tension between Pakistan and India following the Mumbai terror attacks.