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US NSA presents sugary version of Pakistan visit

May 28, 2010 17:55 IST

United States President Barack Obama's National Security Adviser, Retired General Jim Jones, tried to sugar-coat his trip to Pakistan last week along with Central Intelligence Agency chief Leon Panetta, describing it as 'a meeting between friends'. But between the lines, he acknowledged that it was to warn Islamabad to crack down on terrorists plotting in Pakistan and using Pakistani Americans against targets in the US, as proved by the recent failed bombing attempt at Times Square in New York by Faisal Shahzad.

Jones, appearing at the Foreign Press Centre to discuss Obama's National Security Strategy that was unveiled by the White House on Thursday, was questioned about reports in the US media that he and Panetta had been dispatched by the President to confront Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and the senior military leadership including Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani.

Jones and Panetta reportedly carried a dossier detailing Shahzad's links to the Pakistani Taliban as part 'of an emphatic warning', that there would be 'inevitable pressure' on the US to take action if there was another attack on the homeland traceable to Pakistan that resulted in American deaths.

"The United States has committed itself to a long-term strategy with regard to that part of the world, including Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, to try to bring a better life to the people of the region, to try to end terrorism in all shapes and forms directed against all different people," said Jones.

"We have applauded the Pakistani efforts to date with regard to their renewed efforts that began last year, their success in Swat Valley, their success in South Waziristan," he added.

"We have rejoiced in their trust and confidence that's been built between our two militaries, the increased sharing on information and intelligence, the cooperation we've received on law enforcement issues, the very prompt response we got as a result of the Times Square incident," he added.

Continuing his diplomatic stance about his trip with Panetta, Jones said, "My trip was simply to underscore, at the request of the President, that we take this particular relationship extremely seriously -- that we are very serious when we say we have long-term commitments to Pakistan."

But then apparently realising that none of the journalists were buying his sugar-coated spin, Jones finally cut to the chase, acknowledging that the US also "wanted to impress upon our friends that it is essential that terrorism be defeated".

Whenever there is the presence of terrorists or the perception of presence of terrorists, it is in the interests of Pakistan to not only repudiate the existence of those kinds of organisations, but also at the appropriate time to rid Pakistan of that presence," he said.

"And we offer friendship, assistance and cooperation in every way possible in order to do that and in order to help bring a better future to Pakistan," he said, and then reverting to spin mode, added, "So, I want to state very clearly that this was a meeting among friends, one that we have regularly."

Jones declared, "We are now to the point where we can exchange very direct information and very direct messages which have, hopefully, the benefit of adding vitality to the relationship."

Panetta, during the visit, had called on Pakistan "to intensify its crackdown" on the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and other extremist groups. According to intelligence officials, he had told Islamabad that patience was running out in US circles about Pakistan not cracking down on certain extremist groups to protect its own vested interests.

Continuing with this policy -- the two top security officials told Pakistan -- was untenable because these same groups were now plotting attacks against the US and its allies too.

Earlier, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton too had warned of 'very serious consequences' if there was another terrorist attack or even an attempted attack in the US that had originated in Pakistan.

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC