Support Pakistan only if it acts against all terror groups: US task forceBy Arun Kumar, IANS
Saturday, November 13, 2010
WASHINGTON - The United States should invest in a long-term partnership with Pakistan, but only if Pakistan takes action against all terrorist organizations, including the Lashkar-e-Taeba (LeT), blamed for the Mumbai terror attacks, an independent task force has recommended.
In a 98-page report, sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, a research centre and think tank, the task force also says the United States consider drastically cutting the number of troops in Afghanistan unless the current strategy starts to show signs of progress.
The report encompasses analysis and recommendations on US policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan from a 25-member bipartisan task force composed of high-profile military and national security experts. It was chaired by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former National Security Adviser Samuel “Sandy” Berger.
The group “conditionally” endorses the current US policy in Afghanistan, including plans for a conditions-based military drawdown in July 2011, but warns that America “cannot afford to continue down this costly path” without the potential for lasting progress.
Discussing the report at a news conference Friday , Armitage, who served as deputy secretary of state under President George W. Bush, said Pakistan needs to do a better job pursuing and disabling Pakistan-based terror groups such as the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taeba, in the same way that it worries about the Pakistani Taliban.
“If we can’t be successful in either jaw-boning, pressuring, or ’sticks-and-carroting’ them into this (fighting the Haqqani Network and LeT), then in the long run we are dealing with a very dangerous situation,” he warned.
The panel recommends that the US maintain existing levels of economic and technical assistance for reconstruction efforts in Pakistan after the devastating summer floods there, and expanding training and equipment for police, paramilitaries, and the Pakistani army.
The independent report, titled “US Strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan,” precedes the Obama administration’s planned review of US policy in Afghanistan, due in December. The task force panel asks whether the “cloudy picture and high costs” should push the United States to “downsize its ambitions and reduce its military presence in Afghanistan.”
“After nine years of US war in the region, time and patience are understandably short,” the report reads, acknowledging America’s huge budget deficits and sluggish economic recovery.
The task force recommendations for Afghanistan include, among others, shifting a greater burden of that country’s security to Afghan forces, and encouraging political reform, national reconciliation, and regional diplomacy.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)