Af-Pak report shows ‘two-faced’ Pakistan remains Obama’s ‘biggest nightmare’

December 17th, 2010 - 12:48 pm ICT by ANI  

Barack Obama Washington, Dec 17 (ANI): The toned-down, public version of the one-year progress report on Afghanistan and Pakistan released by the White House has made it clear that US President Barack Obama is still in search of the leverage he needs to persuade, or compel, Pakistan to close down the safe haven for terrorists and insurgents that has let a battered al Qaeda leadership and a vigorous Taliban survive.

The classified version runs more than 50 pages, and the White House is holding it so tightly that it is unlikely to be widely distributed on Capitol Hill, however, senior members of Congress can request classified briefings, officials said.

“The bottom line is that Pakistan is a country where we have little influence, little access and little credibility,” the New York Times quoted one of Obama’s aides, as saying, as the review was being put into its final form.

“And we’re still struggling with re-wiring the place so that their interests and our interests are aligned,” the aide added.

Obama offered a more muted version on Thursday, saying, “Progress has not come fast enough,” and that the United States would “insist that terrorist safe havens within their borders must be dealt with.”

But so far the Pakistanis have brushed off Washington’s threats to link military aid to actual performance in counter-terrorism, the paper said, adding that they have been only slightly more impressed when Obama sought to create what he calls a “significant and enduring” level of military and development aid, so the two countries do not lurch from crisis to crisis.

The reality is that, for the foreseeable future, it is the United States that will be dealing with the safe haven on Pakistan’s soil, said the paper.

The CIA launched roughly 53 Predator attacks in 2009, which was more than President Bush authorized during his entire presidency. The figure has more than doubled this year, and while presidential aides will not discuss the program, they make it clear that the pace will be picked up.

It is a strategy to put pressure not only on al Qaeda and the Taliban, but on the Pakistan government, which is enormously sensitive about incursions on its sovereignty, the paper added.

When the Obama administration began to assess its progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan earlier this year, some officials suggested reversing the usual bureaucratic shorthand and calling it the “PakAf review”, reasoning that bringing the US military venture in Afghanistan to a successful end depended mainly on the outcome in Pakistan, where at least officially there are no American troops.

To them, Pakistan remains a far more vital strategic concern for the United States than Afghanistan will ever become, said the paper, due to the presence of nuclear weapons in the most volatile country in a volatile region.

According to the paper, the sensitivity arises in part from a major concern that is in the classified report but that Obama, Clinton and Gates, briefing reporters at the White House, avoided discussing: that even as Pakistan’s civilian government teeters on the edge, an insider could slip nuclear fuel out of its laboratories, which was the source of bomb technology a decade ago for Iran, North Korea and Libya.

That fear was palpable in the classified State Department cables revealed by Wikileaks, with one of the leaked memos classified by the former Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, saying that “our major concern is not having an Islamic militant steal an entire weapon but rather the chance someone working in GOP [government of Pakistan] facilities could gradually smuggle enough material out to eventually make a weapon.”

The review conducted by the White House however did not dwell on that possibility, and concluded that the chances of a deliberate transfer of nuclear material or a weapon from Pakistan to a terror group was very low. (ANI)

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