Bush sidesteps direct action threat against Pakistan

By Arun Kumar, IANS

Washington : With the right intelligence the US and Pakistan governments can “get the job done” against Al Qaeda leaders, President George Bush said, tempering recent official declarations that American forces could take direct action without Islamabad’s nod.

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“With real actionable intelligence, we will get the job done,” Bush said Monday side-stepping a question whether he would wait for permission from Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to send in US forces even if it meant missing an opportunity to take them out.

“I’m confident that with actionable intelligence we will be able to bring top Al Qaeda to justice. We’re in constant communications with the Pakistan government,” he said at a joint presser with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential retreat at Camp David.

“It’s in their interest that foreign fighters be brought to justice, after all these are the same ones who are plotting to kill President Musharraf. We share a concern. And I’m confident with real actionable intelligence we will get the job done,” he added.

Karzai, who had two days of meetings with Bush on a rash of crises confronting Afghanistan, said he and Musharraf would discuss how to tackle the problem of lawlessness and hideouts for extremists along Pakistan’s border area with his country at a “jirga” Aug 9.

Islamabad has taken umbrage at US officials declarations in recent days that US would take direct action inside Pakistan if there were firm intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden or other terrorist leaders.

“That’s what the US Government policy is in that regard,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters later referring to Bush’s remarks about what US would do if it had an opportunity to go after high-value targets in tribal areas in Pakistan.

“And across the line, I think everybody is familiar where we stand on these things,” he said declining to “delve too deeply” into recent remarks by two leading democratic presidential hopefuls, Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

While Obama has said he would send US troops into Pakistan if Musharraf refused to act, Clinton would not take the use of nuclear weapons off the table in dealing with the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“I think it’s pretty clear that everybody understands that there is a presidential race going on, and they can sort out for themselves the various remarks that are coming out. And the various candidates will speak for themselves as to the reasoning behind their remarks,” McCormack said.

“Look, this is a democracy. There’s a thing called free speech. But there’s also a thing called the Executive Branch, and we have a responsibility for what US Government policy is,” he said in response to a question if he would prefer that presidential candidates did not speak about such sensitive issues, he said.

Asked if the Pakistanis had complained about such remarks, McCormack said, “Not to my knowledge. I don’t know. I haven’t heard anything.”

The spokesman, however, described Senator Tom Tancredo’s remarks regarding bombing of two of Islam’s holiest sites to combat terrorism as “simply outrageous”.

“He’ll have to account for his own remarks and explain the reasons behind them. But it’s important for people abroad… that the official position of the United States Government is that those remarks are just outrageous.”