Challenges for America's AFPAK Policy Review
AFP, MArch 1, 2009
WASHINGTON (AFP) — After setting a deadline to pull US forces from Iraq, President Barack Obama is shifting gears quickly to Afghanistan and Pakistan as he lays out a broad, regional approach to fighting extremism.
The Obama administration held three days of talks last week with the foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan and said it would turn it into a regular dialogue to chart a new course in the "war on terror."
Obama has vowed to put a top priority on bringing stability to the lawless and rugged terrain between the South Asian neighbors -- the home base for Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants including, most presume, Osama bin Laden.
Obama, who Friday announced a timeline to end the Iraq mission, is sending 17,000 more US troops to Afghanistan. But he said the United States needed an effort broader than just hunting and killing militants.
"We've been thinking very militarily, but we haven't been as effective in thinking diplomatically, we haven't been thinking effectively around the development side of the equation," Obama said Friday on PBS television.
"Obviously, we haven't been thinking regionally, recognizing that Afghanistan is actually an Afghanistan-Pakistan problem, because right now the militants... are often times coming over the border from Pakistan," he said.
All three sides hailed the openness of the Washington talks, with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi saying that the new administration compared with president George W. Bush's is "really willing to listen to us."
But disputes are simmering just under the surface.
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