Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Obama says Pakistan must not be destabilised

WASHINGTON, Feb 3: Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are the main cause of concern for US President Barack Obama and his military chiefs who have vowed not to allow the destabilisation of Pakistan because that will allow the militants access to weapons of mass destruction.

“What we can do is make sure that Afghanistan is not a safe haven for Al Qaeda. What we can do is make sure that it is not destabilising neighbouring Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons,” said Mr Obama in an interview to NBC television.

His military chief, Admiral Mike Mullen, went a step ahead and pledged not to allow Al Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan’s tribal areas either.

“We cannot accept that Al Qaeda leadership which continues to plan against us every single day — and I mean us, here in America — to have that safe haven in Pakistan nor could resume one in Afghanistan,” Admiral Mullen said.

The two statements coincided with a Pentagon report, partly made available to the media on Tuesday, which recommended a broader effort to train and equip Pakistani security forces to conduct counter-insurgency operations in the tribal areas.

The report also urges the Obama administration to lower its goals in Afghanistan. The report by the joint services chiefs seeks to apply pressure on Pakistan’s military and intelligence services to sever their ties with militants.

Amid growing concern about the stability of Pakistan, the report calls for putting renewed focus by the US government on ensuring that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons remain under its government’s control. Though that has long been a US aim, the report suggests a way to focus new attention on the problem in case militant groups threaten Pakistan’s stability.

The report concedes that the United States cannot establish a “lasting democracy” and a “thriving economy” in Afghanistan — the two objectives touted vociferously by the Bush administration. Instead, the Pentagon urges the Obama administration to focus on ensuring regional stability and eliminating Taliban and Al Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan.

The recommendations will soon be shown to President Obama as part of a review of Afghanistan strategy announced by the new administration. The report is one of several that Mr Obama is expected to review before finalising his strategy.

Gen David Petraeus, Commander US Central Command, and Richard Holbrooke, special US envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, are also preparing similar reports.

The chiefs’ recommendations have been approved by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and seen by Defence Secretary Robert Gates. The report reflects the Pentagon’s concern that sending thousands of additional American troops to fight could lead to a lengthy conflict in Afghanistan.

While Mr Obama is sending three additional brigades, the chiefs’ report rejected the recommendation for an even larger “surge” for Afghanistan.

In their report, the chiefs concluded that the existing American goals in Afghanistan, established by the Bush administration, were overly broad and ambitious.

With insurgent violence in Afghanistan worsening significantly during the last year, the report argues for setting more concrete objectives that are achievable and realistic in the short-term.

In a separate quarterly report to Congress on security conditions in Afghanistan, the Pentagon reports that “the spring and summer of 2008 saw the highest levels of violence” since the US invasion in 2001. “The Taliban regrouped after its fall from power and has coalesced into a resilient and evolving insurgency.”

Between January and December 10, 2008, 132 US personnel in Afghanistan died as the result of hostile action, up from 82 in 2007.

No comments: