US ‘objective’: Deny terrorists safe havens in Pakistan


New Delhi : The US not only remains committed to defeating terror group Al Qaeda and its associates but also to denying them safe havens in Pakistan and Afghanistan, US Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Michele Flournoy said here Tuesday.

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Flournoy said the US administration was committed to President Barack Obama’s strategy in which “he made it very clear that our objective is not only to defeat Al Qaeda and its associates, but also to deny them safe havens in both Afghanistan and Pakistan”.

Speaking to reporters during her trip to New Delhi after her Pakistan visit, Flournoy said that destroying terror safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan was “critical” to the success of the US-led war on terror.

“Dealing with safe heavens on both sides of the border throughout the region is absolutely critical to success and that remains the objective, remains the subject of conversation with all our partners in the region including Pakistan,” she said.

Flournoy’s comments assume significance in the wake of growing belief in the US administration that Al Qaeda terror network leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri are in Pakistan.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during her trip to Islamabad last month, said she believed Osama bin Laden was still in Pakistan.

“I believe (bin Laden) is here in Pakistan and it would be very helpful if we could take them (Al Qaeda leaders) out ,” Clinton said in a televised interview July 19.

Top US military commander Admiral Mile Mullen also said that the presence of these terrorist leaders in the region was a reason why “a principal part of the overall Af-Pak strategy is focused on elimination of safe havens” for them.

Flournoy, who arrived here Monday after a visit to Pakistan, said India and the US have common interests in “fighting terrorism in all its forms”.

Flournoy, who met Defence Minister A.K. Antony, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar and defence and foreign policy experts, said that her visit had come at “a very important time in the US-India defence relationship”.