US again tells Pakistan: Focus on extremists not India

April 25th, 2009 - 11:42 am ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 25 (IANS) Warning that Al Qaeda and Taliban extremists in Pakistan are posing “an ever more serious threat to Pakistan’s very existence,” a top US general has asked Islamabad to turn its focus from India to extremists.

Pakistan must reconfigure its military forces to deal with counterinsurgency operations rather than to continue its conventional focus on traditional rival India, Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the US Central Command, told a House panel Friday.

Pakistan’s leaders must act to counter the challenge with a well-trained military counterinsurgency force, he said requesting congressional support for the Pakistani Counterinsurgency Capabilities Fund with a budget of $400 million for the rest of fiscal year 2009.

The fund, channelled directly through Central Command, which he oversees, is a more flexible spending stream that would permit more rapid and targeted US training and provide more equipment to Pakistani forces that combat insurgents inside the country’s lawless tribal regions.

“The Pakistani military has stepped up operations in parts of the tribal areas. Everyone recognises, however, that much further work is required, and the events of recent days underscores that point,” Petraeus said appearing before a panel of the House Appropriations Committee.

Already, such US military training is underway for small numbers of Pakistani forces that operate in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Northwest Frontier Province, he said. About 300 to 350 Frontier Corps forces moved into the district of Buner after the Taliban expanded into the area from the Swat Valley.

The Taliban “supposedly have now withdrawn with the arrival of the Frontier Corps forces” in Buner, Petraeus said. “So this capability will help us enormously.”

Petraeus said the US has been trying to impress upon Pakistan that India is not their real threat and that New Delhi has shown remarkable restraint even after provocative terrorist activities in recent years.

“India did indeed show impressive restraint in the wake of the Mumbai (terror) attacks. I mean, that was a 9/11 moment for them. In fact, they did not ratchet up the tensions,” he said.

Many observers correctly assess that India played a very constructive role in avoiding a further increase in tensions that might have been understandable given the death inflicted on its innocent civilians in the country’s financial capital, Petraeus said.

Suggesting that India was very much a part of US special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke’s portfolio, the general said both he and Holbrooke had met with top Indian officials and have been in constant touch with them.

Petraeus said that it is important to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan so that Islamabad can both “intellectually and physically focus on the most pressing threat to their existence, which again is the internal extremist threat, rather than the traditional threat of India”.

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