US-Pak partnership key to containing global terrorist threat in S. Asia: Expert

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Washington, July 9 (ANI): Containing the global terrorist threat in South Asia will depend largely on the ability of the United States to forge a trusting and cooperative partnership with Pakistan over the next several years, feels Lisa Curtis, Senior Research Fellow for South Asia in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.

In a testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Curtis said Pakistan is at a critical juncture and the Obama administration has to demonstrate a willingness to invest significant resources to help the country develop into a prosperous, peaceful, and thriving state.

"Achieving this goal requires Pakistani leaders to adjust their own regional security perceptions and to view the internal terrorist threat as urgently as their counterparts in Washington do," Curtis said.

"Only through a strong and trusting U.S.-Pakistan partnership can Pakistan stabilize its economy and face down extremists who wish to destroy its tolerant traditions, retard its growth and development, and isolate the country from the global community," she adds.

As far the Pakistan Army's offensives in the Swat and Waziristan are concerned, Curtis says there has been a significant change in the military's attitude toward confronting the Pakistani Taliban in the northwest part of the country in the past ten weeks.

Admitting that the offensives have led to a severe humanitarian crisis, she says that Washington will have to substantially increase its aid to restore normalcy in the area.

The fact that both anti-Pakistan and pro-Pakistan militants reside in the tribal areas highlights the complexities of the United States partnering effectively with Pakistan to defeat the terrorists as well as the fluidity of the situation as Pakistani leaders increasingly recognize the gravity of the threat posed by various terrorist groups.

"Despite its frustration with the continued existence of the terrorist safe haven in Pakistan's tribal areas, the Obama Administration has operated on the assumption that the Pakistani military would awaken to the dangers the terrorists pose to Pakistani society," Curtis opines.

As far as Afghanistan is concerned, Curtis says that there are signs of improvement in the coordination of the multinational aid and rehabilitation effort.

She claims that NATO partners have welcomed the U.S. "comprehensive and integrated" approach introduced by U.S. President Barack Obama on March 27.

"It is important to remember that the mission in Afghanistan is truly an international endeavor. The U.S. is providing the bulk of the fighting forces, but several other countries, especially the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands, also are making invaluable contributions to the military operations while others support aspects of the campaign like police training, election monitoring, and institution building," she says.

"We should not allow differences over tactics in achieving this mission to divide us politically. In other words, our common strategic goals for the region far outstrip any differences we may share over short-term tactics," she adds.

She claims that the functioning of the Joint Coordination Mechanism Board (JCMB), chaired by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Afghan government, has helped improve the international coordination process.

It is imperative that the August 20 elections are carried out in a credible manner and that the Afghan people believe the democratic process can bring change to their everyday lives.

She believes that the timing of the military operation in Southern Afghanistan is critical as it comes six weeks before the national elections.

"It is necessary for the coalition forces to access these insurgent-infested areas and disrupt the insurgents' ability to entrench themselves deeper into these spaces," she says. (ANI)

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