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Af-Pak strategy unveiled
Won’t tolerate known terror hubs: US
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

In a candid assessment of the US' fragile relationship with Pakistan, a state department policy paper on Thursday admitted that there is a degree of mistrust between Washington and Islamabad, but democratic rule in Pakistan has created a window of opportunity. The report makes a point of noting that while the US military presence in the region is not open-ended, its non-military commitment would be a long-term one.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled the Obama administration's strategy to stabilise Pakistan and Afghanistan, noting that the challenge in both countries is immense. In a section on Pakistan, the report noted: "There remains mistrust between our two countries, but we see a critical window of opportunity created by the recent transition to democratic, civilian rule and the broad, sustained political support across Pakistan for military operations against extremists."

US officials have expressed concern over Pakistan's selective war on extremists within its borders, noting the Pakistani army's offensive ignores deadly terrorist groups such as the Haqqani network, responsible for attacks against US troops in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials delivered some disconcerting news to Robert Gates on the US defence secretary's visit to Islamabad this week. Gates was told the Pakistani army would be taking a break from its offensive against militants operating in the region bordering Afghanistan.

The state department report outlines US objectives in Pakistan and Afghanistan. "While our combat mission in Afghanistan is not open-ended, we will remain politically, diplomatically and economically engaged in Afghanistan and Pakistan for the longterm to protect our enduring interests in the region," it says. On Pakistan, it lays out the US' intention to lead the international community in helping Pakistan overcome the political, economic and security challenges that threaten its stability, and in turn undermine regional stability. "And we seek to build a long-term partnership with Pakistan based on common interests, including a recognition that we cannot tolerate, a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear," it added.

"Achieving progress will require continued sacrifice not only by our military personnel, but also by more than the 1,500 US government civilians serving in Afghanistan and Pakistan," Clinton said, pointing out that for the first time since this conflict began, the US has a true whole-of-government approach. She said the Obama administration's policy, rather than being an exercise in nation-building, was aimed to achieve realistic progress in critical areas, and that Afghan and Pakistani governments had endorsed this strategy.

The US Congress last year passed a Kerry-Lugar bill, which authorises $7.5 billion in US civilian assistance to Pakistan over five years. Additional US assistance will help Pakistan build a foundation for long-term development, and will also strengthen ties between American and Pakistani people by demonstrating that the US is committed to addressing problems that affect the everyday lives of Pakistanis, the report said. It pointed out that the security environment, particularly in the Northwest frontier province and the federally administered tribal areas, will impact the success of some assistance programmes.



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