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Pakistan shifting focus from India to Al Qaeda: US


Washington : Pakistan’s army has started to switch its traditional security focus from the external threat from India to internal threat from Al Qaeda and other extremists, a top US commander said.

This shift has been driven by recent events, including the rise of militants in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, and the siege of the Red Mosque in Islamabad, Navy Admiral William J. Fallon, commander of US Central Command, said Wednesday.

“They see they’ve got real problems internally, which are emanating from the west,” Fallon told reporters in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he was hosting a meeting of military chiefs from the Gulf and the Horn of Africa.

He called the shift of security focus in Pakistan an important change, which comes on the heels of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates’ recent comment that Al Qaeda terrorists, hiding in the border area, are increasingly aiming at targets inside Pakistan.

Fallon also said that Pakistan was now more amenable to the suggestions of using US troops to train and advise its own forces in the fight against anti-government extremists.

The US has already announced plans to step up training of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force recruited from tribal areas.

Without giving details of a possible increased US support for Pakistan’s military, Fallon, who is visiting Pakistan later this month, said that he was encouraged by conversations with Pakistan’s new army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani.

US officials are more concerned of the growing instability in western Pakistan, which they say has become a haven for the Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders.