US worried about militant connections in Pakistan

August 8th, 2008 - 11:08 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto
By Arun Kumar
Washington, Aug 8 (IANS) The US says it’s taking a “pretty bold” stand on Pakistan, a key US ally in the war on terror, worried as it is about “some elements” there having connections with the militants in the region. While “Pakistan, the government, the entity” was a US ally, “there are elements in Pakistan that worries one that there are connections to the militants in the region”, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview with The Politico and Yahoo! News.

“There are also clearly efforts that we think are not working to have deals, if you will, or negotiated solutions to the militant problem,” she said when asked to comment on the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) contention that Pakistan won’t let the US put more troops inside to fight terrorism as it’s actually aiding Al Qaeda.

“But the point is that these militants are as deadly and dangerous for Pakistan as they are for Afghanistan. Just witness the fact that one of the networks there is widely believed to be responsible for the assassination of (former Pakistan premier) Benazir Bhutto,” Rice said.

Asked if it isn’t it time for a bolder statement about Pakistan, “a country that built up the Taliban… a country that sponsors terrorism against India”, the top US diplomat said: “Well, I think we’re taking a pretty bold stand.

“And by the way, the Pakistanis themselves understand that they need to take a bolder stand. Again, this is a threat not just to us or to Afghanistan, but to them.”

Extremism has taken place in Pakistan, in part because of the transit of the more extreme elements who were coming out of Afghanistan after the defeat of the Soviet Union, she said. “This has been rooting in Pakistan for a long time and it’s going to take a while to expel extremism.”

The US, Rice said, had made it “very clear that something has to be done about terrorists who are using Pakistani territory to run cross-border raids into Afghanistan”. They did so again when the Pakistani premier visited Washington late last month.

“The problem is that yes, the Taliban has regrouped, but not really regrouped in - as a military force, but rather in kind of hit-and-run terrorist incidents that, in fact, do affect the population,” Rice said.

“And so a couple of things need to be done. Afghan forces need to be trained in larger numbers and faster. The problems across the Afghan-Pakistan border have to be dealt with.”

Commenting on a report that she was making a series of whirlwind trips around the world grasping for diplomatic victories in the last months of the Bush administration, Rice said: “Oh, no, there’s nothing there. We’ve been setting this up for seven years.”

Among other things, President George Bush “has put in place relationships with Africa and Latin America, with Brazil, and particularly with India”, Rice said. “I think our relationships in Asia have never been in better shape.

“And so I am going to run hard till the end because we still have a lot to cement. But we’ve been running hard since we got here and we’ll do it right to the end.”

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