Root out safe havens for terrorists, Obama tells Pakistan

February 10th, 2009 - 10:38 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Feb 10 (IANS) Warning Pakistan that US would not tolerate terrorist safe havens in its tribal belt along the border with Afghanistan, President Barack Obama has advocated a regional approach to root them out.

“There is no doubt that, in the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area) region of Pakistan, in the mountainous regions along the border of Afghanistan, that there are safe havens where terrorists are operating,” he said at his first White House press conference Monday night.

One of the goals of US special representative Richard Holbrooke “is to deliver a message to Pakistan that they are endangered as much as we are by the continuation of those operations and that we’ve got to work in a regional fashion to root out those safe havens.”

“It’s not acceptable for Pakistan or for us to have folks who, with impunity, will kill innocent men, women and children,” Obama added.

Holbrooke, US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan arrived in Islamabad Monday on the first leg of his trip that would also take him to Afghanistan and India.

He believed that the new government of Pakistan and its president Asif Ali Zardari cared deeply about getting control of the situation,” the president said. “We want to be effective partners with them on that issue.”

Holbrooke “is there, and that’s exactly why he’s being sent there, because I think that we have to make sure that Pakistan is a stalwart ally with us in battling this terrorist threat,” he said.

In reply to another question about his timetable to withdraw troops from

Afghanistan, Obama said, “this is going to be a big challenge” as unlike Iraq where “the political system is now functioning in a meaningful way” one does “not see that yet in Afghanistan.”

“In addition, you’ve got the Taliban and Al Qaeda operating in the FATA and these border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said. “And what we haven’t seen is the kind of concerted effort to root out those safe havens that would ultimately make our mission successful.”

Obama said he had sent Holbrooke to evaluate a regional approach, “The bottom line though - and I just want to remember the American people, because this is going to be difficult - is this is a situation in which a region served as the base to launch an attack that killed 3,000 Americans” in the Sep 11, 2001 terrorist attack.

“My bottom line is that we cannot allow Al Qaeda to operate. We cannot have those safe havens in that region,” he said. “And we’re going to have to work both smartly and effectively, but with consistency in order to make sure that those safe havens don’t exist.”

I do not have yet a timetable for how long that’s going to take,” Obama said. “What I know is I’m not going to allow Al Qaeda or (Osama) bin Laden to operate with impunity, planning attacks on the US homeland.”

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