Af-Pak to remain unstable for decades: Obama’s State of the Union speech

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Jan 13, 2016 16:28 IST
US President Barack Obama delivers his final State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington. (Reuters Photo)

President Barack Obama sounded a rather grim note on Pakistan in his Tuesday address saying it would be gripped by instability for several decades along with some other parts of the world.

This was perhaps the first such reference to Pakistan in all of his State of Union addresses, putting it in the same category as Afghanistan, a recovering failed state, and West Asia.

While focussed on the threat from al Qaeda and Islamic State, the president said, American foreign policy will have to be prepared to deal with “instability (that) will continue for decades in many parts of the world – in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in parts of Central America, Africa and Asia”.

“Some of these places,” Obama warned, “may become safe havens for new terrorist networks; others will fall victim to ethnic conflict, or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees.”

Read | Full text of Obama’s State of the Union speech

Obama’s prognosis for Pakistan is in consonance perhaps with Washington DC’s continuing frustration with Islamabad’s inadequate action against terrorists.

The US has publicly refused to call into question Pakistan’s record on terrorism in the context of the recent attacks on Indian establishments in Pathankot and Mazar-i-Sharif.

But many lawmakers have made clear where they think the blame lies in a string of letters, statements and tweets condemning the two recent attacks.

Watch | Highlights of Obama’s State of the Union address

Pakistan is home to some of the world’s most danger terrorist groups — the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-i-Tayyeba, for instance — who enjoy state patronage and hospitality.

Jaish-i-Muhammad, another Pakistan-based terrorist outfit, is widely suspected to carrying out the simultaneous Pathankot and Mazar terrorist strikes.

There is a growing perception among some sections of US decision makers that Pakistan has begun acting against terrorists in right earnest after the Peshawar school massacre.

But its record of distinguishing “good terrorists” (those that target India) from “bad terrorists” (those targeting Pakistan) often leaves it looking way short even when it means well.

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