Accusing Pakistani government of "abdicating to the Taliban", Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned that the deterioration of security in the country poses a "mortal threat" to the US and the world.
"I think that the Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists," Clinton said in an appearance before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, her first since being confirmed.
Warning that Pakistan is in danger of falling into terrorist hands because of failed government policies, she said the deterioration of security in nuclear-armed Pakistan "poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world."
Clinton's warning came as Taliban militants, who implemented Islamic law in Pakistan's violence-plagued Swat Valley last week, took control of a neighbouring district 60 miles (96 km) from the capital, Islamabad.
"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.
"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."
After rebuking the Pakistani government for caving in to the Taliban, Clinton did not mince her words about the state of affairs there. "If you talk to people in Pakistan, especially in the ungoverned territories, which are increasing in number, they don't believe the state has a judiciary system that works," she said.
"It's corrupt, it doesn't extend its power into the countryside. So the government of Pakistan, however it is constituted, which is of course their business, not ours, must begin to deliver government services."
Otherwise Clinton warned, "they are going to lose out to those who show up and claim that they can solve people's problems, and then they will impose this harsh form of oppression on women and others."
Several members of Congress voiced concern about Islamic extremists gaining ground in Pakistan, including the Committee's Democratic Chairman Howard Berman, who warned the United States cannot allow extremists to control Pakistan or operate with impunity along the border with Afghanistan.
Clinton said the international community is working closely to combat extremism in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, but Pakistanis themselves need to take responsibility.
"Not only do the Pakistani government officials, but the Pakistani people and the Pakistani diaspora - many of whom are extremely successful Americans here, in academia, businesses, the professions and so much else - need to speak out forcefully against a policy that is ceding more and more territory to the insurgents, to the Taliban, to Al Qaeda, to the allies that are in this terrorist syndicate," she said.