M A I N   N E W S

Obama sure Pakistan’s N-arsenal safe
Pledges support to ‘fragile’ government in Islamabad
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

At a press conference to mark his first 100 days in office, President Barack Obama on Wednesday admitted he was "gravely concerned" about the situation in Pakistan, but said he was confident Pakistan's nuclear arsenal would remain secure.

Obama also said the recent military operations against the Taliban within Pakistan were a sign of "some recognition just in the last few days that the obsession with India as the mortal threat to Pakistan has been misguided, and that their biggest threat right now comes internally”.

Noting that the Pakistani military was now taking "much more seriously the armed threat from militant extremists," Obama said he wanted to "continue to encourage Pakistan to move in that direction, and we will provide them all the cooperation that we can”.

He said the US wanted to respect Pakistan's sovereignty, but also recognised that US had "huge strategic interests, huge national security interests, in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don't end up having a nuclear-armed militant state."

As the Taliban advances towards Islamabad, senior officials within the Obama administration have expressed concern about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. Obama was asked if he could reassure the American people that these nukes would not fall into Taliban or Al-Qaida's hands. "I feel confident that nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands," he insisted.

"I'm confident that we can make sure that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure, primarily because the Pakistani army, I think, recognises the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands," he said, adding that the US and Pakistan had strong military-to-military "consultation and cooperation."

Obama admitted he was "gravely concerned about the situation in Pakistan, not because I think that they're immediately going to be overrun and the Taliban would take over in Pakistan; more concerned that the civilian government there right now is very fragile and don't seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services, schools, health care... rule of law, a judicial system that works for the majority of people."

"And so as a consequence, it is very difficult for them to gain the support and the loyalty of their people. So we need to help Pakistan help Pakistanis. And I think that there's a recognition, increasingly, on the part of both the civilian government there and the army, that that is their biggest weakness," he added.




Islamabad wish-list
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington Hussain Haqqani laid out a laundry list of items Pakistan needed from the US to fight the terrorists -- "night-vision equipment, jammers that can knock out FM radio transmissions by the terrorists, and a larger, modernised fleet of helicopter gunships for ground support in the massive sweeps that are necessary to contain, repel and destroy the enemy”.

Haqqani said Washington had been reluctant to share this equipment and to train Pakistan's military in anti-terrorism techniques because of concerns that these systems could be used against India. "Such concerns are misplaced," he maintained. "Pakistanis understand that the primary threat to our homeland today is not from our neighbour to the east but from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on our border with Afghanistan."

On Wednesday, the Obama administration asked Congress for millions of dollars to help equip and train Pakistan's army to fight insurgents. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher told lawmakers Pakistan's Army chief, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, had sought US help to enhance the Frontier Corps, the special forces and the 11th Corps' counterinsurgency abilities. "He has lost 1,400 men killed in action along the border region.



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