By Arun Kumar, IANS,
Washington : The United States is pressing Islamabad to get its Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency to shed its links with the Taliban and other extremists that pose an existential threat to Pakistan itself.
“Some of those reports aren’t new. There are a whole host of contingencies that we’ve got to deal with,” President Barack Obama told CBS Sunday when asked about reports of members of Pakistan’s intelligence service actually actively helping the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
“I mean, this is going to be hard. I’m under no illusions. If it was easy, it would have already been completed,” he said describing his new Af-Pak policy announced Friday to focus American counter-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“So we’re going to have to go with a strategy that is focused, that is narrowly targeted on defeating Al Qaeda,” he said. “But we recognize there are going to be a lot of hurdles between now and us finally having weakened Al Qaeda or destroyed Al Qaeda to the point it cannot – it doesn’t pose a danger to us.”
“And we will continue to monitor and adjust our strategies to make sure that we’re not just going down blind alleys,” Obama added.
In a separate interview with FOX News, Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the new policy was committed “certainly, to defeat Al Qaeda and-and make sure that Afghanistan and western Pakistan are not safe havens for them.”
Asked how the US would stop elements of ISI from “providing the Taliban and other extremists with money, supplies, even tips on allied missions against them”, Gates said: “…We certainly have concerns about the contacts of – between the Pakistani intelligence service and the-and some of these groups in the past.”
“But the reality is the Pakistanis have had contacts with these groups since they were fighting the Soviets 20 or 25 years ago when I first was dealing with the Pakistanis on this, and I must say also helping make sure that some of those same groups got weapons from our safe haven in Pakistan,” he acknowledged.
“…the Pakistanis have had contacts with these people for a long time, I think partly as a hedge against what might happen in Afghanistan if we were to walk away or whatever.”
“What we need to do is try and help the Pakistanis understand these groups are now an existential threat to them and that we will be there as a steadfast ally for Pakistan, that they can count on us and that they don’t need that hedge,” Gates said.