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We don't give enough aid to Pak: US special envoy

December 16, 2009 12:03 IST

The United States' mounting pressure on Pakistan -- to go after the Afghan Taliban inside Balochistan -- could affect the cohesion of the Pakistan army and lead to the destabilisation of the government, according to US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke.

Holbrooke admitted that the US was deeply concerned about such a scenario.

"Pakistan officials said publicly, clearly and very honestly that in 2002, you drove the Taliban and the Al Qaeda east into Pakistan without consulting us or preparing us, and we inherited the consequences and we need to be consulted," he said.

Holbrooke made the observations at an interaction with members of the Council on Foreign Relations and the media on US policy on Afghanistan.

He pointed out that US Commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal and the US Ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry, now "with our strong encouragement, go to Islamabad pretty regularly with no publicity in order to talk to the government and the military about these operations, so that this time around we are very much more conscious of the fact that if we have an operation in Balochistan, the more successful it is, the more it might put pressure on our ally in Pakistan."

"And, while it is far from perfect," he added, "it's very complicated because there are so many moving parts. We have really moved the ball forward here in terms of close coordination and I've talked to (Pakistan Army chief) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and General (Shuja) Pasha, the head of Inter Services Intelligence, about this. They are very pleased with the constant flow of information between us and them."

Holbrooke reiterated that "we are in constant communication," and added that Central Command Commander General David Petraeus and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen were currently in Islamabad.

Earlier, Holbrooke said, "We will not be able to succeed in Afghanistan unless our Pakistan policy is equally successful," and noted that "while the troops are in Afghanistan, the hard-core of our core enemy is next door (in Pakistan)."

He conceded that there was no denying that the Pakistan army had taken on the Pakistan Taliban but not the Afghan Taliban, who continued to enjoy safe haven in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

"This is a matter of the highest concern to us," Holbrooke said, and pointed out that "we have had more high-level visitors traveling to Pakistan than any other country in the world since January 20 (when Barack Obama took over the presidency)."

He said, "We feel that Pakistan did not get the attention it required in the last eight years, and to a considerable extent the attention it got was focused in the wrong areas."

But, Holbrooke argued that notwithstanding the sanctuaries the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda enjoy in Pakistan, he believed that "the Pakistanis have made considerable progress this year. They took on the terrorists in Swat and they dispersed them. They moved into South Waziristan, which they had not previously done, and the fighting there is continuing."

But while acknowledging that the US would like the Pakistanis to take on the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda in the western part of the country, the top diplomat asserted, "I am not going to sit here and demand of a sovereign country what they have to do."

"They know what they should do in terms of their own interest and ours," he said. "We are engaged in the most intense dialogue under the most complicated circumstances with Pakistan."

Holbrooke said, "All of you who studied South Asia understand that the interaction between the countries of South Asia creates a very complicated dynamics and the history between Pakistan and Afghanistan since 1947 has been exceedingly complicated."

"Let us not forget that the origins of what we are now dealing with goes back to the 1970s and 1980s and there are direct lines all the way through and a lot of mistakes were made, which we inherited and we are trying to sort out," he said.

But Holbrooke reiterated, "I want to stress how absolutely central Pakistan is to the stability in the region by virtue of history, geography, ethnicity and destiny. And, our commitment to work with the Pakistanis as close friends and allies is undiminished. It's not easy and a lot of what you read is stirred up by the media over there -- they have one of the freest medias in the world."

The Special Representative also said, "We don't give enough aid to Pakistan in my view, but it is extremely difficult because of the long complicated history between the two countries."

Holbrooke said that if one "read the whole panoply of the relationship, you see how many ups and downs we have had -- how many times there was some kind of misunderstanding."

He said increasing aid for Pakistan was "one of the three or four highest priorities" for him and claimed that this is something that he wrote about "before I came into the government, and I have been fighting for this since the day I came in."

Holbrooke added, "I can assure you that President (Barack) Obama and Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton share that view."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC