Cancer of terrorism is in Pakistan, Obama tells Zardari through his NSA

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Washington, Sept.29 (ANI): US President Barack Obama has reportedly told President Asif Ali Zardari through his National Security Adviser, retired Marine General James L. Jones, and CIA Director Leon Panetta that the cancer of terrorism is in Pakistan and emanating from that country.

"We're living on borrowed time. We consider the Times Square attempt a successful plot because neither the American nor the Pakistani intelligence agencies could intercept or stop it," the Washington Post quoted retired Marine General Jones as telling President Zardari.

Jones is further said to have conveyed to Zardari that the Obama administration will no longer tolerate safe havens for terrorists in Pakistan.

"We need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan," Obama declared during an Oval Office meeting on November 25, 2009, near the end of the strategy review, and added that the reason to create a secure, self-governing Afghanistan was "so the cancer (from Pakistan) doesn't spread there."

Jones and Panetta were in Pakistan to tell Zardari that Obama wanted four things to help prevent a terrorist attack on U.S. soil -- full intelligence sharing, more reliable cooperation on counter-terrorism, faster approval of visas for U.S. personnel traveling to Pakistan and, despite past refusals, access to airline passenger data.

Jones is said to have told Zardari during their conversation that should a future attempt be successful, Obama would be forced to do things that Pakistan would not like.

"No one will be able to stop the response and consequences. This is not a threat, just a statement of political fact," Jones is believed to have said.

Jones, however, did not give specifics about what he meant.

The Obama administration is believed to have a retribution plan, one of the most sensitive and secretive of all military contingencies.

According to the Washington Post, the plan calls for bombing about 150 identified terrorist camps in a brutal, punishing attack inside Pakistan.

According to the paper, Zardari is said to have responded by saying that the strategic partnership between Pakistan and United States should be drawing their governments closer rather than causing a division.

Zardari believes that he has already done a great deal to accommodate Washington at some political risk, even to the extent of allowing CIA drones to strike al-Qaeda and other terrorist camps in parts of Pakistan, prompting a public outcry about violations of Pakistani sovereignty.

Jones is believed to have responded by saying: "You can do something that costs you no money. It may be politically difficult, but it's the right thing to do if you really have the future of your country in mind. And, that is to reject all forms of terrorism as a viable instrument of national policy inside your borders."

Zardari said in his defense that Islamabad has rejected all forms of terrorism.

Jones and Panetta said that they had heard such declarations before, and added that whatever Pakistan was doing with the many terrorist groups operating inside its borders, it wasn't good or effective enough.

Panetta even went to the extent of pulling out a "link chart," developed from FBI interviews and other intelligence, that showed how the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan had assisted the Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad.

This was a matter of solid intelligence, Panetta said, not speculation.

Jones and Panetta then turned to the disturbing intelligence about Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group behind the horrific 2008 Mumbai attacks that had killed 175, including six Americans.

Pakistani authorities are holding the commander of the Mumbai attacks, Jones said, but he is not being adequately interrogated and "he continues to direct LeT operations from his detention center." Intelligence shows that Lashkar-e-Taiba is threatening attacks in the United States and that the possibility "is rising each day."

Zardari didn't seem to get it.

"Mr. President," said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who was also at the meeting, "This is what they are saying. . . . They're saying that if, in fact, there is a successful attack in the United States, they will take steps to deal with that here, and that we have a responsibility to now cooperate with the United States."

"If something like that happens," Zardari said defensively, "it doesn't mean that somehow we're suddenly bad people or something. We're still partners."

No, both Jones and Panetta said. There might be no way to save the strategic partnership. Underscoring Jones's point, Panetta said, "If that happens, all bets are off."

Afterward, the Americans met privately with Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani, who is said to be the most powerful figure in the country.

Jones told Kayani that the clock was starting now on Obama's four requests. Obama wanted a progress report in 30 days, he added.

General Kayani said he had other concerns and said that he would be the first to admit that he was and continues to be India-centric in his plans and strategy.

Panetta laid out a series of additional requests for CIA operations.

"We need to have that box. We need to be able to conduct our operations," Panetta said.ones and Panetta left the meetings with their Pakistan interlocutors feeling as though they had taken only baby steps.

Realizing that the war against terrorism is a "crazy kind of war," Panetta in a veiled threat said: "We can't do this without some boots on the ground. They could be Pakistani boots or they can be our boots, but we got to have some boots on the ground." (ANI)

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