US must commit to end extremist threat from AfPak

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Washington, May 6 (ANI): The Obama administration will have to demonstrate that it is committed to dedicating the time, resources, and, most important, leadership necessary to stabilize the region that includes Pakistan and Afghanistan and contain the terrorist threat in South Asia.

According to Lisa Curtis, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, President Barack Obama has laid out a strong case for the American people on why Washington needs to remain committed to the region, reminding one and all that the terrorists responsible for 9/11 remain in western Pakistan and have threatened the regimes of both countries.

In a testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Curtis said that the "Obama strategy calls for intensive regional diplomacy with a special focus on a trilateral framework for Afghan, Pakistani, and American officials to engage at the highest level."

The Obama plan also emphasizes the need to establish benchmarks for the Afghan government to root out corruption within its ranks and for the Pakistan government to improve its efforts against terrorists within its borders, she adds.

President Obama supports a vast increase in non-military assistance to the Pakistani people, but also explained that the U.S. would no longer provide a "blank check" to the Pakistani military and would expect more cooperation in combating the Taliban and other extremist groups.

One of the hotly debated issues surrounding the AfPak strategy is whether it is possible to establish a credible democratic process in Afghanistan.

Curtis agrees in part with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates congressional testimony that the U.S. should not try to create a South Asia "Valhalla" in Afghanistan.

"While he is correct that we cannot expect Jeffersonian democracy from Afghanistan, it would be a false choice to say we should either fight terrorism or help rebuild a nation. The reality is if we want to ensure Afghanistan does not again become a safe haven for terrorists, we need to prevent hard line Islamists who support international terrorism from dominating the country," she says.

This means the Afghan people need an alternative to the Taliban.

"We cannot go back to the Afghanistan of the late 1990s. There needs to be a credible functioning political process for the people to support and that will prevail over the Taliban's repressive and violent policies," she said in her testimony.

As far as establishing benchmarks, or metrics, to gauge Pakistan's role in fighting al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists, she says: "The U.S. should work with Pakistan to develop a new strategic perception of the region based on economic integration and cooperation with neighbors and tougher policies toward terrorists, including severing official ties with all militant organizations and closing down all militant training camps."

"Washington needs to demonstrate that it is interested in establishing a long-term partnership with Pakistan but make clear it will not abandon efforts to build strategic ties with India at the same time," she adds.

Pakistan, she says, must end its dual policies of fighting some terrorists while supporting others. (ANI)

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