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Obama war plan not enough: Pakistani, Afghan envoys

world Updated: Apr 10, 2009 08:42 IST

AFP
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President Barack Obama's anti-terror escalation may not prove enough to break the back of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the Pakistani and Afghan envoys in Washington warned on Thursday.

Both ambassadors called on the United States and its allies to provide more cash and military tools to defeat terrorism on the battlefield and alleviate the poverty and ignorance that sustains extremist ideology.

Pakistan's Husain Haqqani welcomed the new Obama strategy, but contrasted the aid given to nations in the extremist epicenter with the multi-billion-dollar bailouts extended to US companies in distress.

"The resources that are being committed may look big to some but very frankly, I think that a company on the verge of failure is quite clearly able to get a bigger bailout than a nation that is accused of failure," he said.

"Why does Afghanistan or Pakistan get less resources allocated to solving a bigger problem (extremism) ... than say for example some failed insurance company or some car company whose real achievement is that they couldn't make cars that they could sell?"

Obama last month put Pakistan at the center of the fight against Al-Qaeda as part of a new strategy dispatching 4,000 more troops, in addition to an extra 17,000 already committed, and billions of dollars to the Afghan war.

The plan includes a focus on Al-Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistan and boosting civilian efforts to build up both Afghanistan and Pakistan, notably in agriculture and education.

Afghan ambassador Said Jawad, speaking alongside Haqqani at a forum organised by Washington's Atlantic Council think-tank, also said Obama's new strategy marked a welcome reorganization of US goals.

But he stressed that Afghanistan needed more help for a major expansion of its security forces, from the 134,000 army troops and 82,000 police personnel foreseen in the Obama plan.

To counter the resurgent Taliban, he said, the Afghan army should number at least 250,000 and the police 150,000.

"Right now you are paying with your blood and treasure in Afghanistan by sending your sons to fight for us," Jawad said.

"The most sustainable way is to create this capacity in us," he said, insisting Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government was already tackling the endemic police corruption identified by foreign donors.
"The police force, the judicial system, was neglected for a very long time," Jawad said. "We are paying a price for that right now."

Obama on Thursday wrote to US lawmakers asking for an extra 83.4 billion dollars this year to pay for military efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"This funding request will ensure that the full force of the United States -- our military, intelligence, diplomatic, and economic power -- are engaged in an overall effort to defeat Al-Qaeda and uproot the safe haven from which it plans and trains for attacks on the homeland and on our allies," he wrote.

Haqqani welcomed a bill introduced in the US House of Representatives that would triple economic assistance for Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year and shore up democratic rule by attacking hotbeds of extremist schooling.

The Pakistani ambassador said his government welcomed US demands for accountability for how aid money is spent, but rejected 'intrusion' by Congress through onerous conditions.

While complaining about US missile attacks on suspected militants, Haqqani acknowledged US suspicions that Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence foments extremist groups as a counter to India's regional influence.

But he said that Pakistan, under civilian leadership, now stood united in viewing the fight against militancy as a struggle "to save the soul of our nation."