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Drop Lashkar, Obama warns Pakistan president

world Updated: Dec 01, 2009 02:39 IST
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Pakistan’s "use" of militant groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba "cannot continue", US President Barack Obama has warned Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in a two-page letter.

The Washington Post reported that the letter, which outlined a new strategic relationship with Pakistan, was “unusually blunt”. But it also offered Islamabad incentives, including an offer to “reduce tensions” between India and Pakistan.

<b1>Washington has been trying to piece together a new bargain with Islamabad. The key demand of Pakistan: recognise it cannot be an ally in the “war on terror” and support Islamicist militant groups fighting India and Afghanistan.

In return, Obama offered more economic and military assistance. Obama said Pakistan needed to end “ambiguity” in its relations with five militant groups: Al Qaeda, Afghan Taliban, Haqqani network, L-e-T and the Tehreek-e-Taliban.

The inclusion of Lashkar, a group that until 26/11 had avoided attacking US targets, is a gesture towards the militant group’s main target, India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had told Obama during his state visit that Pakistan was leaving Lashkar alone.

The letter, say his officials, is designed to push US-Pakistan relations in a new direction. Without this change the US is “not going to win in Afghanistan”.

US officials described the new US-Pakistan equation as a “cat and mouse game” but one that “requires time”.

Pakistan analysts said Zardari is too weak to dictate to the military and intelligence. Retired General Talat Masood said the US wants “a total change in the thinking of the military through a political leadership that is inherently weak.”