Obama to focus on terrorist safe havens inside Pakistan


The new US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke is scheduled to meet leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan in Islamabad this week as part of a major US policy review aimed at combating the Taliban and extremists in the region. He is scheduled to meet Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari, the Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and key military leaders as well as members of the Foreign Ministry.

US President Obama has stated that he is planning on sending an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan and has promised to stabilize the Afghanistan and Pakistan region as this was one of his stated goals during the presidential campaign. He is also hoping for additional troops from NATO in battling a resurgent insurgency in the Afghanistan and Pakistan border areas. Holbrooke will also be holding top level talks with Afghani and Indian leaders before reporting back to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama.

In his first televised prime time speech Monday evening, President Obama was asked about the safe havens inside Pakistan and what he was doing to root out the terrorists on the Pakistani side of the border. Obama stated that there is “no doubt” that there are safe havens on Pakistan’s side of the border and his envoy Holbrooke is going to try and convince Pakistan’s new government of President Zardari that the Pakistanis are endangered just as much as the United States from the threat presented by the Taliban operating from these areas. He stated that it is important for Pakistan to know that it is “not acceptable” for either the United States or Pakistan to have people in the border region who will act “with impunity” to kill innocent people. He also stated that he believes that the government of Pakistan “cares deeply” about getting control of the situation and that Pakistan will be effective partners in the anti-terror fight against the Taliban and the extremists.

The New York Times reported Monday that the Taliban have set up complex operations in the Pakistani city of Quetta, where Taliban leaders are believed to play a significant role in stirring violence in southern Afghanistan and disrupting the supply of goods and services en route to US forces in Afghanistan. Although there has been some success against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the tribal areas of the North West Frontier Provience (NWFP) of Pakistan, the city of Quetta has fast become a central operations point for the Taliban in planning and carrying out attacks against the US forces out of this Pakistani city. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated that the US will have a tough love approach to Pakistan and will threaten to cut off military aid to Islamabad if it does not cut down on militants operating from inside its territory.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani stated in an interview that if there is actionable intelligence against Al-Qaeda or Taliban in its territory, than Pakistan will act on that intelligence. However he admitted that there is not always good information coming out of Quetta as this is a very “messy area.” The province of Baluchistan where Quetta is the capital has long been hostile to the federal government of Pakistan. In fact, for several years now there has been a low level insurgency against the Pakistani government led by the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) who’s goal is the establishment of a separate Baluchistan government.

The BLA has been listed as a terrorist organization since 2006 by the Pakistani and British governments. It is a partnership of convenience for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters to unite with the BLA and base their operations from Quetta in Pakistan in fighting the American forces in Afghanistan. This new development is very troubling for the US forces as it allows the Taliban to organize and coordinate their attacks without much repercussion from the Americans as they are well inside Pakistani territory. Last week the Talliban was blamed for the execution and brutal beheading of a Polish engineer in the Baluchistan region who was held captive for several months before being savagely killed after negotiation for his release failed. Privately US officials admit that the Pakistani government has their hands full as they have been fighting the BLA for several years in and around Quetta and have not had great luck in building a network of sources and spies in the region as the Baluchi people of the area are sympathetic to the BLA against the Pakistani government.

It is the hope of peaceful groups like Pakistanis for Peace that the US, Afghanistan, and Pakistan cooperate fully in their fight against the extremists in the region as they all share a common enemy. Whether the perpetrators of violence are Taliban, Al-Qaeda, or Baluchi separatists, they are the common enemy of the United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It does not matter if the acts of terrorism are committed against Americans, Afghans, foreigners such as the Polish engineer, or average Pakistani citizens, it is high time that the allies on the war on terror unite and join forces in rooting out this evil from the area. It is going to require the united efforts and resources of all involved to bring the fight to the enemy. Pakistan must understand that the enemy within its borders is a much more serious threat to its sovereignty and statehood than any foreign army operating close to its borders. One hopes that the governments of Pakistan and the US settle their differences regarding terrorist safe havens in Pakistan and are able to find a successful strategy in battling and rooting out the terrorists operating in the region both inside Afghanistan and Pakistan as this is in the best interest for all countries involved in attaining peace and winning the war on terror.

Reported for http://www.PakistanisforPeace.com by Manzer Munir

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