Withdrawal from Iraq will have ramifications in India too: US

By Arun Kumar, IANS

Washington : The Bush administration suggests that a premature withdrawal of US forces from Iraq would create a terror base there and cause reverberations across the globe from Afghanistan to Pakistan to India.

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President George Bush “believes that leaving, in the absence of conditions that will allow the Iraqis to support themselves, would result in the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and the kind of security challenge that would make your head spin,” White House spokesman Tony Snow said Friday.

Painting a very scary scenario of the situation after US withdrawal, he said, “…what would happen is that you would have a terror base in Iraq; you would have a strengthened Iran; you would have a rejuvenated Al Qaeda that gets a ‘see, told you so,’ would have increased ability to recruit throughout the globe.”

“Furthermore, our allies in the region are going to say, well, wait a minute, we’re not going to rely on the Americans. We’ll cut side deals with Al Qaeda or Iran. You’ll have increasing instability in Afghanistan that will bleed over into Pakistan, that will have ramifications in India,” Snow suggested.

“On the other side, you take a look at what happens, and you have instability throughout the Saudi peninsula, it moves across the Middle East into North Africa. It’s certainly going to have impacts on Europe,” he said.

“So the president understands that actions have consequences, and far-reaching consequences,” Snow said reiterating Bush’s resolve to stay put in Iraq despite a House vote requiring US forces to start leaving within 120 days and increasing restiveness among his own Republican senators.

Meanwhile, another Bush administration official came to the defence of Pakistan and its military president Gen Pervez Musharraf regarding efforts to deal with Al Qaeda and the Taliban who according to US intelligence officers have found a “safe haven” in the country’s northwest tribal areas.

” I don’t think our views on Pakistan are any different today than they were yesterday or last week,” State department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said Friday describing Pakistan as “an important country in the region” and Musharraf “a valued partner and ally.”

“Certainly, Pakistan has been the subject to threats from various kinds of extremists. That’s why we’ve been working with the Pakistanis to try and deal with the concerns that we have in the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) with Taliban infiltration across the border (from Afghanistan),” he said.

“Certainly as well, we’ve known that there have been direct threats to Pakistan’s government and leadership, and no one knows that better than President Musharraf, who has been the subject of several assassination attempts over the last couple of years,” Casey said repeating Bush administration’s familiar refrain.

“…we share with him an understanding of the future that we would like to see for Pakistan and that is one that we believe is shared by the vast majority of Pakistanis, which is for a modern, moderate Islamic state that works with the United States and other members of the international community to fight against extremists like Al Qaeda and the Taliban” he said.

Casey’s comments came a day after another official admitted at a hearing of a House subcommittee on national security and foreign affairs that there is turmoil in these (tribal) regions, but claimed “we are capturing the bad guys” who are wanted as terrorists.

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs Richard Boucher claimed that Pakistan has captured more Al Qaeda than any other country and lost more people doing that”

Boucher also revealed that Washington is reimbursing Islamabad $100 million every month for meeting the expenses of stationing 85,000 troops in the area bordering Afghanistan. The US has promised another $150 million annually for five years in an effort to promote economic development as an alternative to smuggling and terrorism, he said.

Bush administration officials’ upbeat assessment about Pakistan is at variance with that of the US intelligence community. Some intelligence officers this week suggesting that Islamabad’s recent policies were unintentionally permitting an Al Qaeda resurgence.

A draft of a new National Intelligence Estimate on the Al Qaeda threat notes that a resurgent Al Qaeda is rebuilding its command structure along the Pakistan-Afghan border, while recruiting operatives to infiltrate US and other western nations, according to officials cited by the media.

The estimate said to be nearing completion reflects the consensus view of all 16 US intelligence agencies.