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Holbrooke defends US drone strikes in Pak

December 23, 2009 10:30 IST

The Barack Obama administration is facing a dilemma with respect to Pakistan as unlike Afghanistan, it cannot send its troops there to fight Al Qaeda and Taliban and needs to find other means, top United States Special Envoy for the region Richard Holbrooke has said.

"The dilemma is that the leadership of both the Al Qaeda and the Taliban are in a neighbouring country (of Afghanistan) where our troops cannot fight. And therefore we have to find other means, working for the Pakistanis and other means, to deal with the groups," Holbrooke, the Special US Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, said.

If the US was to abandon Afghanistan or pull out troops, the Obama administration believes that the Taliban and the Al Qaeda will win an enormous international victory which would inspire thousands of potential Jihadis, shift the balance in a very negative way and give a much larger terrain for Al Qaeda to play in, he said.

"The Pakistanis were very instrumental in creating the Taliban, as you well know, in the period after the United States abandoned Afghanistan in 1989, which history will record as one of the great mistakes of American foreign policy," Holbrooke said in an interview to the popular Charlie Rose show of the PBS.

Responding to a question, Holbrooke asserted that there are no American troops in Pakistan. When asked about the possibility of the presence of Central Intelligence Agency people and special operations agents in Pakistan, he said, "We have members of our intelligence service in every country in the world. You know that."

Supporting the highly unpopular drone attacks in Pakistan, he said such attacks have been very successful from the US point of view.

"Some of the most dangerous people in the world, and posing the most serious threats imaginable to the United States and Pakistan at the beginning of this year are, not alive today (like) Baitullah Mehsud, the director of Al Qaeda's external operations. These are men who the Pakistani army has announced accurately are no longer alive," he said.

"These are very important moves forward. The Al Qaeda has been under the most intense pressure, and we are working very closely with the Pakistanis on that," Holbrooke said, but refrained from answering questions as to why the Pakistan government is not willing to take any action against the Haqqani network which is closely linked to the Taliban.

"I am very reluctant to go into more details. All I can say to you is that these are issues that we talked to the Pakistanis about in private and they should remain private," he said.

Lalit K Jha In Washington
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