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Despite leaked documents, White House defends Pak alliance

Source: PTI
July 26, 2010 11:22 IST
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Stung by a stunning leak of classified records indicating links between the Inter State Intelligence and the Taliban-Al Qaeda network, the White House came out in defence of Pakistan, insisting that the US-Pak alliance has led to significant blows against the Al Qaeda leadership since 2009.

"Since 2009, the United States and Pakistan have deepened our important bilateral partnership. Counter-terrorism cooperation has led to significant blows against the Al Qaeda's leadership," National Security Advisor, Gen (rtd) James Jones, said in a statement.

The statement, however, added that the Pakistani establishment, including the military and the intelligence agency, need to continue their "strategic shift" against insurgents.

Many of the documents posted by whistleblower Wikileaks strongly suggest that Pakistan's ISI may be helping Afghan insurgents plan and carry out attacks on US forces in Afghanistan and their Afghan government allies.

Incidentally, the report releases documents of the period when General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the current Pakistan army chief, was head of the ISI from 2004 to 2007.

Well aware that such an important document might have an adverse impact on its relationship with Pakistan in particular the Pakistani Army, the White House lauded Pakistan's military establishment for its anti-Taliban drive.

"The Pakistani military has gone on the offensive in Swat and South Waziristan, at great cost to the Pakistani military and people.

"The United States and Pakistan have also commenced a Strategic Dialogue, which has expanded cooperation on issues ranging from security to economic development," Jones said.

He also pointed out that Pakistan and Afghanistan have improved their bilateral ties, most recently through the completion of a Transit-Trade Agreement.

"Yet the Pakistani government -- and Pakistan's military and intelligence services -- must continue their strategic shift against insurgent groups... The balance must shift decisively against the Al Qaeda and its extremist allies," he said.

Jones said US support for Pakistan would continue to be focused on building Pakistani capacity to root out violent extremist groups, while supporting the aspirations of the Pakistani people.

He pointed out that the documents posted by Wikileaks reportedly cover a period of time from January 2004 to December 2009.

"On December 1, 2009, President Obama announced a new strategy with a substantial increase in resources for Afghanistan, and increased focus on Al Qaeda and Taliban safe-havens in Pakistan, precisely because of the grave situation that had developed over several years," he said.

"This shift in strategy addressed challenges in Afghanistan that were the subject of an exhaustive policy review last fall," he said.

The NSA said Afghanistan cannot be allowed to slide backwards or the US will again face a threat from violent extremist groups like al Qaeda who will have more space to plot and train.

"That is why we are now focused on breaking the Taliban's momentum and building Afghan capacity so that the Afghan government can begin to assume responsibility for its future," he said.

Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, told the New York Times that Pakistan had been an important ally in the battle against militant groups, and that Pakistani soldiers and intelligence officials had worked alongside the United States to capture or kill Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

Rhodes, at the same time said the "status quo is not acceptable," and that the havens for militants in Pakistan "pose an intolerable threat" that Pakistan must do more to address.

"The Pakistani government -- and Pakistan's military and intelligence services -- must continue their strategic shift against violent extremist groups within their borders," Rhodes was quoted as saying.
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