‘Perilous Afghanistan-Pakistan region top US military priority’

January 28th, 2009 - 12:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Jan 28 (IANS) With the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan growing “increasingly perilous every day” the US military under President Barack Obama considers the region its top priority, according to the seniormost US military commander.”I think that the top priority for us right now is Afghanistan-Pakistan. And I think President Obama has made that clear,” Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday at a media briefing on US national aecurity strategy.

“And you see that emphasised, and you will see that emphasised in terms of where the military will be engaged,” he said at his first media interaction after Obama’s Jan 20 inauguration.

While Afghanistan and Pakistan are at the top of the list right now, Mullen said: “The issue with respect to Iran developing nuclear weapons is still of great concern to me. I consider that possibility to potentially be very destabilising in a region that doesn’t have a lot of stability right now.”

“But the biggest US concern with respect to Al Qaeda is their existence in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) in Pakistan and the need to make sure that that threat, that safe haven is eliminated and isn’t created or recreated in Afghanistan or some other place, like Somalia or Yemen,” he said.

Obama has “indicated, to focus there, in terms of it being a priority, and then get to some level of stability: no safe havens, reasonable development, Pakistan stable”, Mullen said, adding that “nuclear weapons (were) not a significant concern in Pakistan”.

The “situation there grows increasingly perilous every day”, he said, noting that suicide and improvised explosive devise (IED) attacks are up, some say as much as 40 percent over the last year.

“The Taliban grows bolder in planting fear and intimidating the Afghan people, and the flow of militants across the border with Pakistan continues.”

Military leaders are also working hard with the national security team as they craft a new strategy for the way forward in Afghanistan, Mullen said, as Obama had “made it clear that he wants that strategy to be appropriately inclusive of our relationship with Pakistan as well as other nations in the region”.

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