US to push Pakistan to destroy terrorist safe havens

March 28th, 2009 - 11:16 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, March (IANS) The US is hoping to destroy terrorist safe havens in Pakistan with a combination of aggressive military operations from the Afghanistan side and what one senior official called “energetic working” with Islamabad.

Warning that Al Qaeda was planning attacks on the US from its safe haven in Pakistan, President Barack Obama Friday unveiled a new strategy to “disrupt, defeat and dismantle” the Al Qaeda terrorist organization and the Taliban in the two countries.

Asked how the strategy would help in destroying the safe havens in Pakistan, Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and Middle East and South Asia expert who chaired the review of Obama’s Afghanistan-Pakistan policy, suggested a combination of military operations from Afghanistan side and tough diplomacy with Pakistan would do the trick.

“I think the short answer to that is that the combination of military operations, aggressive military operations on the Afghan side, and working energetically with the Pakistani government to shut down these safe havens, creates the synergy which we hope will then lead to their destruction,” he said at a White House briefing.

Asked if Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was aiding the Taliban, Riedel parried, but pointed to media reports suggesting that the military intelligence outfit continues to have connections with terrorist groups despite Islamabad’s official protestations to the contrary.

“I’m not going to get into the intelligence questions which have been in every newspaper in the United States in the last several days,” he said. “This strategy is built upon a very clear understanding of what’s going on in the region, but I’m not going to comment on intelligence matters today.”

The US special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, too declined to answer a question if Obama’s remarks that “we will insist that action be taken - one way or another - when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets,” meant that the US will act on its own if Pakistan did not.

“I just don’t think we can answer that question,” he said. “It’s speculative, it’s hypothetical, and it would be deeply injurious to our national interest to speculate. But I appreciate the importance of the question, and that’s all we’re ready to say.”

Asked if he could say something about what the president meant by his remarks, Holbrooke said: “No.”

But Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs was more forthcoming at a later briefing. Asked if Obama’s comment suggested that if the Pakistanis do not act, others will have to, he said: “think that’s a reasonable reading of that, and I think it’s consistent with the President’s policies and what he said throughout the campaign.”

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