The United States is troubled by Pakistan’s decision to cede territory to “very bad guys” in Swat, says its special envoy, who believes that to get the Pakistanis to focus on the western front, tensions with India have to be reduced.
Richard Holbrooke, US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, made the comments in an interview to PBS television on Wednesday night, a day after he returned from a trip to the region.
The Obama administration, Holbrooke said, had inherited a very serious situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “The Taliban are resurgent. They have an increasingly large sanctuary in Pakistan. The events in Swat only highlight that.”
The administration is engaged in “a new, intense” diplomacy designed to put Afghanistan and Pakistan into a larger regional context, he said.
Holbrooke said the Pakistan army had been focused on India for decades. “Most of us believe that they ought to reorient their attention much more to the west. But in order to do that, there has to be much more confidence between Pakistan and India.”
He praised India for its restraint after the Mumbai attacks. “The terrorists ... were trying to upset the improving relations between Pakistan and India. The Indians did not play into their hands.”
Holbrooke was asked how committed Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, which have in the past supported the Taliban, are to President Asif Ali Zardari’s stated goal of getting rid of the terrorist sanctuaries.
“We are engaged in very intense discussions with the military leadership of Pakistan and the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) about this particular issue,” he said.