Pak now more attuned with US view on Islamic extremism, feels Holbrooke, US officials

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Islamabad, Aug.19 (ANI): US President Barack Obama's Special Envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke and other U.S. officials are reportedly of the view that Pakistan is now more attuned with the US view on the threat of Islamic extremism, but at the same time, also acknowledge their concern about the anti-Americanism that has shown up in recent opinion polls.

"This relationship (between America and Pakistan) carries a lot of baggage," the Los Angeles Times quotes Holbrooke, as saying.

But Holbrooke also is insisting that he wouldn't support a withdrawal from Afghanistan, as the Baloch want, until the country was no longer at risk of descending into turmoil.

According to the paper, Holbrooke has heard a number of Pakistani officials press for more American aid.

Pakistan is eager for U.S. aid, but many people are wary of U.S. intentions. Jamaat-i-Islami has limited leverage in the government, but it is one of the most influential Pakistani Islamist parties, and its anti-American views are widely shared, U.S. officials say.

One of Holbrooke's aides described the conversation as a major outreach effort for the United States, roughly equivalent to talking to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian Islamist party that Washington shuns.

On Monday, Holbrooke ate pastries and exchanged views under a languidly whirling fan in the sitting room of another outspoken Islamist politician, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a leader in the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party. Rehman was instrumental in the Taliban's early days, U.S. officials say, and denies that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.

Holbrooke is on his fifth official visit to the region. He will be in Afghanistan for the country's elections Thursday.

The L.A. Times report says that under President Obama, the U.S. is reaching out to groups that the Bush administration dealt with little or not at all.

Holbrooke contends that the new administration has changed policy from the Bush days in "dozens" of respects.

He said the administration had halted the effort to eradicate Afghan poppy crops, tightened rules on Afghan military strikes to avoid civilian casualties, and was increasing economic aid to Pakistan. (ANI)

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