Virtually putting Pakistan on notice, the United States has said it is looking for concrete action by the government there to destroy the Taliban operating out of its territory in the next two weeks, before determining its next course of action.
General David Petraeus, the Commander of US Central Command, has told US officials that the next two weeks are critical to determining whether the Pakistani government will survive, Fox News reported. Petraeus made this assessment in talks with lawmakers and Obama administration officials this week, individuals familiar with the discussions told the TV channel.
"The Pakistanis have run out of excuses" and are "finally getting serious" about combating the threat from Taliban and Al Qaeda extremists operating out of Northwest Pakistan, the general is reported to have told the officials.
The TV network reported that Petraeus also said wearily that "we've heard it all before" from the Pakistanis and he is waiting for concrete action by the government to destroy the Taliban in the next two weeks, before determining the United States' next course of action.
The Obama administration is currently focused on propping up the Pakistani government and military with counter-insurgency training and foreign aid.
The network said Petraeus and senior administration officials believe the Pakistani army, led by Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Kayani, is 'superior' to the civilian government, led by President Ali Zardari, and could conceivably survive even if Zardari's government falls to the Taliban.
American officials have watched with anxiety as Taliban fighters advanced earlier this month to within 100 km of the capital city of Islamabad. In recent days, the Pakistani army has sought to reverse that tide, retaking control over strategic points in the district of Buner, even as the Taliban struck back by kidnapping scores of police and paramilitary troops.
The officials who spoke with Petraeus, however, said he and they believe that even if Zardari's government were to fall, it was still conceivable that Kayani's army could maintain control over the nuclear arsenal. As for the security of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week that the US believes the arsenal to be 'safe' but only "given the current configuration of power in Pakistan."
She had described as 'the unthinkable' a situation in which the Zardari government were to be toppled by the Taliban, adding "then they would have the keys to the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan, and we can't even contemplate that. We cannot let this go on any further."