Pakistan wants more from US: Obama Calls Zardari
Daily Times Monitor, February 12, 2009
LAHORE: Pakistan warned US special envoy Richard Holbrooke on Tuesday it expected more from the United States in return for its cooperation against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, a Washington Post report says.
Statements issued by President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, after meeting with the envoy, emphasised the need to ‘expedite’ a new US aid package, and “the importance of enhanced cooperation in defence and intelligence sharing”. Holbrooke only said that he was there “to listen and learn the ground realities”.
In Washington, US officials said that while a revised strategy would acknowledge Pakistan’s crucial role, developing a new relationship was likely to be a long process. “Not having patience makes all the sense in the world in terms of the Afghanistan threat,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen said in a recent interview. But in Pakistan, he said “there is not a quick answer”, and any new US strategy would have to “recognise the tension” between the short- and long-term objectives.
The next step, the officials said, would be a visit to the US later this month by Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani, whom Mullen credited with a number of positive steps including: replacing the former head of Pakistan’s intelligence service, who was widely mistrusted by the CIA; appointing a new chief for the Frontier Corps; and doubling Frontier Corps salaries.
Increased aid: Gen Kayani is likely to press requests for increased military aid in several categories, including Cobra attack helicopters, night-vision equipment, and equipment to jam extremist radio transmissions, intercept satellite telephone communications, and improve communication among Pakistani military units in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Pakistan would also like at least to “be in the room” when targeting decisions for CIA aerial drone attacks in the FATA are made, a senior Pakistani official said. Pakistan also wanted more funding stability, he added. In the news conference following a meeting with Holbrooke, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan and the US would have “to sit together to understand the implications” of a planned doubling of US troops in Afghanistan this year, and there would have to be an accompanying ‘civilian surge’ in Pakistan. “By civilian surge,” he said, “I mean greater focus on socio-economic development and greater political engagement with the reconcilable elements” among extremists.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is reformulating a massive US development assistance programme for Pakistan, including at least $1.5 billion annually for the next five years. Committee chairman Sen John F Kerry said the amount of aid might be increased in legislation that he said was likely to be completed “in a matter of days”. The legislation will include benchmarks allowing Congress to judge Pakistan’s performance. “We have no problems with greater transparency and accountability,” a Pakistani official told the Washington Post. “But the funding cannot stop.”
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