Washington, May 28 (IANS) President Barack Obama says the US is working with Pakistan to make it more effective partners in dealing with the extremists within their borders as his national security strategy set ‘Disrupt, Dismantle, and Defeat Al Qaeda’ as a key goal.
The United States went into Afghanistan ‘because the Taliban was harbouring Al Qaeda, which had launched an attack that killed 3,000 Americans’ in the Sep 11, 2001 terror attack, he said at a White House Press Conference.
‘Al Qaeda escaped capture and they set up in the border regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan,’ Obama said.
‘Al Qaeda has affiliates that not only provide them safe harbour, but increasingly are willing to conduct their own terrorist operations initially in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, but increasingly directed against Western targets and targets of our allies as well.’
‘So it is absolutely critical that we dismantle that network of extremists that are willing to attack us, Obama said asserting ‘They absolutely are a threat to us. They’re a significant threat to us.’
The US strategy was to clear out Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan while strengthening the capacity of the Afghan military, he said.
‘At the same time, we’ve also got to work with Pakistan so that they are more effective partners in dealing with the extremists that are within their borders,’ Obama said. ‘And it is a big, messy process. But we are making progress.’
Later at a briefing for foreign media Obama’s National Security Advisor General James L. Jones denied reports that he had ‘threatened’ Pakistan during a recent trip to move against militants more aggressively and broadening the fight.
‘Fundamentally, 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 formed directed against all different peoples,’ he said.
His ‘trip was simply to underscore, at the request of the President, that we take this particular relationship extremely seriously,’ Jones said.
‘But we wanted to also impress upon our friends that it is essential that terrorism be defeated and that wherever there are the presence of terrorists or the perception of presence of terrorists, that it’s in the interest of Pakistan to not only repudiate the existence of those kinds of organizations but also at the appropriate time to rid Pakistan of that presence.’
‘And we offer friendship and assistance, cooperation in every way possible in order to do that and in order to help bring a better future to Pakistan,’ he said describing his trip as ‘very clearly … a meeting among friends, one that we have regularly.’
The strategy document noted ‘the Pakistani government has undertaken its biggest offensive against the violent extremists within its borders in years.’
It also noted that Obama had signed the bipartisan Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill that authorises $1.5 billion in non-military assistance to the Pakistani people every year over the next five years.
On the military side, US ‘fully resourced our security assistance to Pakistan including the provision of $238 million in Foreign Military Financing for FY 2010.’ Last year it also initiated a special counterinsurgency assistance fund for $1.1 billion.
US had also reimbursed Pakistan $1.3 billion in 2010 for military expenses they incurred in 2008 and 2009 under the Coalition Support Funds programme.