US ‘extremely concerned’ about worsening Pakistan situation

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : The US is “extremely concerned” by the political crisis in Pakistan but doesn’t believe there is a “high probability right now” of the military intervening.

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The situation “continues to deteriorate very, very slowly under a political leadership which is very challenged because of the totality of the crisis,” Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen, said in an interview with PBS, the public broadcaster.

But the Pakistan army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, is “committed to a civilian government” and doesn’t want to take over as his predecessor Pervez Musharraf did in 1999, he said.

“Pakistan is a country with nuclear weapons,” Mullen said. “It’s 165 million people and should we move to a point where somehow there is a theocratic government there with nuclear weapons… that’s something that keeps me up.”

The US is obviously watching the unfolding crisis “very carefully”, he said.

“And I know that there are people … concerned that this could degenerate into a situation that could very possibly generate a crisis, which may cause actions to be taken on the part of the military.”

But “I don’t think that possibility is out there as a high probability right now, but certainly it’s a concern.”

Kayani, in Mullen’s view, “does want to stay out of politics. He also wants to do the right thing for Pakistan. And he’s in a very, very tough spot”.

“He also knows his country well, and so obviously he’s paying a lot of attention to this as well, as we all are. And I’m just hopeful that this doesn’t turn into another crisis in Pakistan.”

Mullen said he is also “pessimistic” about Afghanistan, where US and NATO-led troops are fighting a Taliban insurgency as “militants there have generated a significant rise in the level of violence, and they’re starting to turn people back toward them”.

“I think Afghanistan is a relevance issue for NATO,” said Mullen. “If NATO doesn’t succeed in Afghanistan, I don’t think NATO has much of a future.”