Islamabad, Jan 8 (ANI): Pakistan is the most dangerous place on earth, and should be US President Barack Obama's top national-security priority, says a new book by a former CIA officer.
"It is the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world and it has more terrorists per square mile than any other country in the world," FOX News quoted Bruce Riedel, author of "Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America and the Future of Global Jihad", as saying in an exclusive interview.
"Pakistan is our most important partner in the war against Al Qaeda, and the most difficult partner in the war against Al Qaeda," he added.
Riedel, who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank, says the US must pursue a two-track approach with Pakistan, according to the report.
On one hand, he supports the 1.5-billion-dollar non-military aid package sponsored by Senator John Kerry and Senator Richard Lugar that is still stalled in Congress, saying that the money will help convince the Pakistani people that the US is seeking a long-term friendship.
But Riedel also says the US should get tough with Pakistan's top generals and members of its intelligence service- the ISI- if there is evidence that they are supporting the Taliban or Al Qaeda, the report added.
He suggests placing offending officers on the US terror watch list, which means their overseas assets would be frozen.
"Imagine a state with the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world, the sixth largest army, that's an active sponsor...of terrorist groups...that welcome Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda out of their hiding places into the Presidential palaces in Islamabad," Riedel said.
"That's the nightmare that we have to worry about. And that's the nightmare that we have to avoid at all costs," he added.
Critics of the administration's current policy suggest that the Obama team has not taken a tough enough line when it comes to the suspected ties between the nation's military and intelligence organizations and the Taliban and other radical groups, the report said.
KT McFarland, a nuclear proliferation and national security expert who worked in the Reagan Pentagon, said that the US must be more demanding with its troublesome ally.
"We've let the Pakistanis tell us what they want, and frankly they are playing both sides," said McFarland.
"On one hand, they are helping us in Afghanistan and with Al Qaeda against the Taliban, but on the other hand they are helping the Taliban too, because they are hedging their bets," the security expert added.
McFarland suggested that the US should tell the Pakistan government to get serious about searching for Osama Bin Laden, who is believed to be hiding in the mountainous eastern region of the country.
"I think we need to go to Pakistan and say, 'Look, you guys have had almost 10 years. We know that Osama Bin Laden is in Pakistan. If you want the relationship to continue, we want Osama Bin Laden'," said McFarland.
The US-Pakistan relationship has been a fraught one from the day the Central Asian nation broke free from British control to become an Islamic republic in 1947, the report said.
There are many examples of the double game that Pakistan has played with its US ally, it added, noting that in 1993, Pakistan's Western-educated Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto helped North Korea make major advances in its nuclear program.
Riedel's book describes how she shared the secrets that helped the North Koreans develop a uranium enrichment program and, ultimately, a nuclear weapon.
"She carried back and forth information about nuclear centrifuges from North Korea to Pakistan and other information. Whether she carried a nuclear weapons design, I don't think that has been substantiated one way or another," said Riedel, who led a White House strategy review on Pakistan for Obama in 2009.
"It's very ironic: Mrs. Bhutto was probably the most secular, pro-Western Pakistani politician of our lifetime and yet she was also involved in the nuclear trade with North Korea. And she was one of the early sponsors of the Afghan Taliban."
The report cited another example of the complicated relationship between the US and Pakistan, saying that the CIA has never yet been allowed to interview the father of Pakistan's nuclear program, A.Q Khan, who in 2004 admitted to providing nuclear know how to, among others, Iran, Libya and North Korea. (ANI)