US to probe Kabul’s charges of terrorism against Pakistan

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : As a bill proposing tripling of non-military aid to Pakistan was introduced in the US Congress, President George Bush said Washington would investigate Kabul’s charges that Pakistan had a hand in recent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan.

Support TwoCircles

“We’ll investigate his (Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s) charge and we’ll work with his service to get to the bottom of his allegation,” Bush said at a White House press conference Tuesday.

“No question, however, that some extremists are coming out of parts of Pakistan into Afghanistan,” he said. “And that’s troubling to us, it’s troubling to Afghanistan, and it should be troubling to Pakistan.”

Bush added that he would discuss the threat with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani when he visits US later this month.

The comments came as two senior senators Thursday introduced a bipartisan legislation, which while proposing tripling of non-military aid to Pakistan to $7.5 billion over five years also links security aid, around $1 billion annually at present, to counter-terrorism performance.

“Our bill represents a genuine sea-change-one which will set the US-Pakistan policy on a safer and more successful course,” said its authors Joseph Biden, Democratic chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, and Republican Richard Lugar.

The US provided Pakistan with more than $10.5 billion for military, economic, and development activities in the 2002-2007 period. An independent government audit found last month that military aid given to Pakistan was not properly accounted for.

The US presidential candidates, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, too outlined plans to defeat terrorism in Afghanistan by making Pakistan the focus of the fight against Al Qaeda and Taliban.

“This is a war that we have to win,” Obama said in a major foreign policy speech here, offering a plan for withdrawing US forces from Iraq and taking the fight to Al Qaeda dens in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“Al Qaeda has an expanding base in Pakistan that is probably no farther from their old Afghan sanctuary than a train ride from Washington to Philadelphia and yet today we have five times more troops in Iraq than Afghanistan,” he said.

The US cannot succeed in Afghanistan or secure “our homeland” unless it changes its Pakistan policy, said Obama. “We must expect more of the Pakistani government, but we must offer more than a blank cheque to a General who has lost the confidence of his people,” he said in an obvious reference to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

“It’s time to strengthen stability by standing up for the aspirations of the Pakistani people,” Obama said, suggesting the greatest threat to American security lies in the tribal regions of Pakistan, where terrorists train and strike into Afghanistan.

“We cannot tolerate a terrorist sanctuary and as president I won’t. We need a stronger and sustained partnership between Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO to secure the border, to take out terrorist camps, and to crack down on cross-border insurgents,” he said.

Shortly after Obama laid out his foreign policy vision, McCain criticised his proposals as naïve and premature, attacking his rival’s opposition to the surge policy in Iraq and highlighting his own proposal for victory in Afghanistan.

McCain said an improving security situation in Iraq as a result of a US troop increase, or “surge”, should allow the US to send more forces to Afghanistan. But like Obama, McCain said he would put special focus on Pakistan as part of his regional strategy.

“We must strengthen local tribes in the border areas who are willing to fight the foreign terrorists there. We must also empower the new civilian government of Pakistan to defeat radicalism with greater support for development, health, and education,” he said.