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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Encouraging signs apart, every thing not likely to be Hunky-Dory as Washington Summit

Encouraging signs apart, every thing not likely to be Hunky-Dory as Washington Summit 2009-05-06 00:37:26

By Hadi Mayar, Abudl Haleem
KABUL, May 5 (Xinhua) -- The upcoming Afghan-Pak-US summit in Washington may certainly prove a turning point in the implementation of President Obama's new strategy in the war against extremist Islamic militancy, yet the ensuing wrangling among the three sides is more likely to further crystallize trouble spots in their trilateral interaction.
Signals emanating from Washington, Islamabad, and Kabul indicate that all the three major partners in the war against terrorism are constantly developing consensus on many issues. However, in the course, their reservations and complaints against each other are also becoming more vivid.
Before leaving for Washington, Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday hoped that the summit would prove helpful to Afghanistan, Pakistan and to the whole region.
Nevertheless, despite optimism among government circles, public opinion is skeptical in Afghanistan.
"Keeping in mind the trading of accusations between Kabul and Islamabad, it seems difficult that Washington summit bears the desired outcome," Afghan observer and human right activist Qasim Akhgar maintained.
Islamabad has accused Afghan government of arming Taliban militants in the lawless tribal areas backing Balouch fighters in the southwest Balouchistan province while Kabul rejected the allegation and says Pakistan does not do enough to eliminate militants.
Spokesman of Afghanistan Defense Ministry Zahir Azimi in a joint press conference with the U.S. military and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) criticized Pakistan, saying Pakistan should carry out military operations in Wazirustan where Taliban and Haqani network have their bases and conduct terrorist attacks in Kabul.
President Obama's predecessor George W. Bush had too invited such trilateral summit with the participation of Pakistan's former military chief General Pervez Musharaf and President Karzaiin Washington but failed to contain Taliban-led activities.
"Apparently the new summit in Washington without putting any practical and positive impact on the ground would end in paper," Akhgar observed.
Actually, General David Petraeus, the US CENTCOM chief, has pushed Pakistan to do more in combating militants in its northwestern territory saying "he is looking to see concrete action by the Pakistan government to destroy the Taliban before determining the next course of action for the US."
"The Pakistanis have run out of excuses," the US general said while referring to what Western media has been calling Pakistan's half-hearted response to the growing threat of religious extremism and terrorism, which US and NATO military officials describe as a threat for them in Afghanistan.
The warning came on the heels of President Obama's speech to mark his first 100 days in office, in which he expressed the fear that if the threat of militancy was not thwarted in Pakistan the country feared falling of its nuclear arsenal into the wrong hands.
"I'm more concerned that the civilian government there right now is very fragile and don't seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services," Obama said as his administration officials categorically stated that Pakistan army was superior to the civilian government.
Washington's relations with Islamabad have remained roller coaster ever since the United States announced its new strategy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan March 27, in which the onus in the war on terror has more been laid on Pakistan than Afghanistan.
Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US chiefs of staff, faced a tough time when, soon after the announcement of the new strategy, they visited Islamabad to shape up Pakistan's support for Obama's new policies.
It was for the first time that Pakistani officials not only categorically opposed the US drone strikes in the Pakistani tribal areas along Afghanistan, but also ruled out joint operations by US and Pakistani forces against militants in these areas.
Later, the signing of Pakistan's peace agreement with militants in the northwestern Swat valley added fuel to the fire.
"The people of 9/11 are still present there in Pakistan's tribal areas," Holbrooke was quoted by the Wall Street Journal last week as saying.
He further stated: "If the tribal areas of Pakistan were not a sanctuary, I believe that Afghanistan can take care of itself within a relatively shorter period of time."
However, the last week operation of the Pakistani security forces in two neighbouring valleys of Swat i.e. Dir and Buner - and the subsequent gestures by the Pakistani civil and military leadership to eliminate terrorism and religious extremism - succeeding to arouse a soft corner in the hearts of US administration officials for Islamabad.
On Monday, the Pakistani media - while quoting official sources- published a wish list, which President Zardari intends to present to his US counterpart in their Washington encounter.
Besides other equipment, the list includes demands for provision of advanced helicopters and night vision radars.
However, despite all these positive gestures, things do not appear to be all that rosy at the Washington summit.
Having come under harsh US criticism for being 'inferior' to Pakistan army and incapable to deal effectively with the Taliban threat, the Pakistan government has now started to blame Kabul for the arms supply to the Taliban.
Rehman Malik, the Pakistan interior minister, while talking to BBC radio, asked the international community on Sunday to 'help check the flow of arms to religious extremists in the Pakistani tribal areas from Afghanistan.'
The charge is likely to give a new twist to the three-way cooperation among Washington, Islamabad, and Kabul in their fight against Islamic militancy - which Western media and US think tanks say is more rooted in Pakistan than Afghanistan.
Editor: Yan

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