Obama calls Pakistan, Afghanistan “the central front” in terror war

January 23rd, 2009 - 9:44 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Jan 23 (IANS) Calling Afghanistan and Pakistan as “the central front” in the fight against terrorism and extremism, President Barack Obama has named a special representative for the “perilous” region as part of a comprehensive strategy to combat the menace.”My administration is committed to refocusing attention and resources on Afghanistan and Pakistan and to spending those resources wisely,” he said Thursday on a visit to the State Department on his second day in office to set his foreign policy priorities.

“And that’s why we are pursuing a careful review of our policy,” he said as his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton,announced the names of two special envoys - Richard Holbrooke for Afghanistan and Pakistan and George Mitchell for Middle East peace.

Former UN ambassador Holbrooke, “one of the most talented diplomats of his generation,” will help lead US “effort to forge and implement a strategic and a sustainable approach to this critical region,” Obama said.

Contrary to media speculation, Holbrooke’s brief does not include India or centre around the issue of Kashmir, “which would have been a grave mistake,” said Lisa Curtis, Senior Research Fellow for South Asia at The Heritage Foundation.

Like the Middle East “another urgent threat to global security is the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Obama said. “This is the central front in our enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism.

“There, as in the Middle East, we must understand that we cannot deal with our problem in isolation. There is no answer in Afghanistan that does not confront the Al Qaeda and Taliban bases along the border,” he said.

“And there will be no lasting peace unless we expand spheres of opportunity for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said describing as “truly an international challenge of the highest order.

“And while we have yet to see another attack on our soil since 9/11, Al Qaeda terrorists remain at large and remain plotting,” he said explaining why Holbrooke had been named special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Going forward, we must set clear priorities in pursuit of achievable goals that contribute to our collective security.”

US, he said “will seek stronger partnerships with the governments of the region, sustained cooperation with our NATO allies, deeper engagement with the Afghan and Pakistani people and a comprehensive strategy to combat terror and extremism.”

“The American people and the international community must understand that the situation is perilous and progress will take time,” said Obama noting, “Violence is up dramatically in Afghanistan. A deadly insurgency has taken deep root.”

Clinton said it had “become clear that dealing with the situation in Afghanistan requires an integrated strategy that works with both Afghanistan and Pakistan as a whole, as well as engaging NATO and other key friends, allies and those around the world who are interested in supporting these efforts.”

Holbrooke, she said,will coordinate across the entire government an effort to achieve US States strategic goals in the region.

Pledging his best to undertake this daunting assignment, Holbrooke noted Afghanistan and Pakistan are “two very distinct countries with extraordinarily different histories, and yet intertwined by geography, ethnicity and the current drama.”

“In Pakistan, the situation is infinitely complex,” he said announcing plans to get out to the region.

“But I will say that in putting Afghanistan and Pakistan together under one envoy, we should underscore that we fully respect the fact that Pakistan has its own history, its own traditions, and it is far more than the turbulent, dangerous tribal areas on its western border.”

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