Stabilising Pakistan a key challenge for Obama: Bush aide

January 8th, 2009 - 11:55 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Jan 8 (IANS) Stability and success in the war on terror in Pakistan will be a key challenge for the Obama administration to resolve the Afghanistan problem and keep Pakistan-India relations on a positive footing, according to a top aide of President George W. Bush.”So there is a lot at stake in Pakistan, and they have as daunting a task as any government today,” National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said in a valedictory speech at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies Wednesday.

“And it is going to be very important for the new team to support their (Islamabad’s) efforts,” he said, adding he was encouraged by statements from President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden.

“I think they understand the challenge that Pakistan faces, and that means the challenge we face,” said Hadley suggesting the new government in Islamabad “wants to confront terror, but does not really at this point have the tools and has probably as difficult a challenge to deal with the various groups that it has of any nation.”

“And that’s why I think it is going to be one of the key challenges, because success in Pakistan, overcoming this challenge, is important for stability in Pakistan, which is important to us in itself,” he said

“But stability in Pakistan is also going to be important and success in the war on terror in Pakistan is also going to be important if we’re going to take care of the problem in Afghanistan and if we are going to get Pakistan and Indian relations to continue on a positive footing,” Hadley said.

Touting the India-US civil nuclear deal as a key success of Bush’s foreign policy, he said: “We have formed a new strategic partnership with the world’s largest democracy - India. An historic agreement for civil nuclear cooperation has helped transform our relationship and make us global partners.”

Describing Pakistan as “a victim of terror,” Hadley said it was true that “activities in certain of the border regions of Pakistan make more difficult achieving democratic stability in Afghanistan.”

“But I think one of the things we’ve also seen is that those - that terrorist presence -Taliban, Al Qaeda, and other extremist groups - also are a threat to Pakistan,” he said. “And I think this democratic government in Pakistan understands that.”

The democratic government in Pakistan, “is a real opportunity, because we think that democratic government has the opportunity to rally the people of Pakistan behind what is going to be a very difficult fight”. Hadley said when asked why the US could not control terrorism there in the last eight years.

“This is a new government. It is getting its bearings. It faces severe terrorist threats from organizations that have deep roots into the society,” he said noting, “They have a military force that was designed for conventional conflict with India, not for dealing with counter-terrorism.”

Afghanistan will be another early challenge for the new administration,” Hadley said noting the Taliban remain a serious threat as “its fighters have found safe haven across the border in Pakistan.”

“And if the extremists succeed in destabilising Pakistan, the chaos will threaten peace and progress throughout the region. So stabilising Pakistan must be a first priority of the new administration-as it has been one of ours,” he said.

Describing the Asia-Pacific as a region of increasing importance to America’s security and economic well-being, Hadley said: “Bush’s strategy has been to revitalise existing alliances, establish new strategic partnerships, bring China into the international system as a responsible player, confront terrorist and proliferation threats, and promote freedom and democracy.”

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