Stopping casualties at the source

Wednesday, March 9, 2011; 8:16 PM

Regarding the March 6 news story "New wounds for Afghanistan troops":

The increase in improvised explosive device (IED) attacks in Afghanistan is due in part to the increased engagement of U.S. forces there over the past year. But the abundance and firepower of these terrible weapons is also due to the ready availability of ammonium nitrate, a key explosive ingredient that is illegal in Afghanistan but legal and unregulated across the border in Pakistan.

I have visited with several courageous young service members from Pennsylvania who were lucky enough to survive but experienced terrible injuries like those described in the article due to IEDs in Afghanistan. Many Pakistanis have also fallen victim to ammonium nitrate-packed IEDs used by extremists in their own country. Pakistan must do more to restrict the use of ammonium nitrate and its transport to Afghanistan.

Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, wrote on the March 6 op-ed page that "We are fighting terrorists for the soul of Pakistan and have paid a heavy price." I agree. By regulating ammonium nitrate, he can take a step toward diminishing a key weapon in their arsenal.

Robert P. Casey Jr., Washington

The writer, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs.

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