US efforts fail to convince Pakistan's top general to target safe Taliban havens

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Islamabad, Jan 1(ANI): Countless efforts made by the United States to persuade Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani to target safe terrorist havens inside Pakistan territory have failed so far, and recent US intelligence estimates have concluded that he is unlikely to change his mind anytime soon.

Kayani, who as Pakistan's army chief has more direct say over the country's security strategy than its president or prime minister, has resisted personal appeals from President Obama, US military commanders and senior diplomats, the Washington Post reports.

As the Obama administration struggles to assess the fruits of its investment in Pakistan, some officials said the United States now accepts that pleas and military assistance will not change Kayani's thinking, the report added.

According to officials, despite the entreaties, the army chief does not trust US motivations, and is hedging his bets in case the American strategy for Afghanistan fails, the report said, adding that in many ways, Kayani is the personification of the vexing problem posed by Pakistan.

According to news accounts, Kayani reportedly said in November that the two countries' "frames of reference" regarding regional security "can never be the same", said the report.

Calling Pakistan America's "most bullied ally," he said that the "real aim of U.S. strategy is to de-nuclearize Pakistan."

Kayani is far from alone in the Pakistani military in suspecting that the United States will abandon Pakistan once it has achieved its goals in Afghanistan, and that its goal remains to leave Pakistan defenseless against nuclear-armed India, said the report.

Kayani "is one of the most anti-India chiefs Pakistan has ever had," it quoted one US official, as saying.

Although the Obama administration praised Kayani for operations in 2009 and 2010 against domestic militants in the Swat Valley and in South Waziristan, it has grown frustrated that the general has not launched a ground assault against Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda sanctuaries in North Waziristan, the report added.

Kayani has promised action when he has enough troops available, but he has given no indication of when that might be, the report said, noting that most of Pakistan's half-million-man army still remains facing east, towards India.

"Nine years into the Afghanistan war, we're fighting various strands of militancy, and we still have an army chief who considers India the major threat," said Cyril Almeida, an editor and columnist at the English-language newspaper Dawn. "That's mind-boggling."

Pakistani democracy activists fault the United States for professing to support Pakistan's civilian government while at the same time bolstering Kayani with frequent high-level visits and giving him a prominent role in strategic talks with Islamabad, said the report.

In response, Obama administration officials said that while they voice support for Pakistan's weak civilian government at every opportunity, the reality is that the army chief is the one who can produce results, it added.

"We have this policy objective, so who do we talk to?" one official said. "It's increasingly clear that we have to talk to Kayani." (ANI)

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