In a pointed reference to Pakistan, US President Barack Obama asserted that his Administration will “not tolerate” sanctuaries for terrorist outfits in that country.
He made this point while speaking at an event in Atlanta, Georgia, where he also announced that withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq was on schedule and adhering to the deadline of August 31 this year.
He made it clear that America’s military focus would turn entirely to Afghanistan, without focusing on the July 2011 deadline for drawing down American forces there.
As the United States appears to be open to reconsidering that deadline, that may be of some relief to Indian diplomats and analysts, who had warned of the “day after” scenario.
They had cautioned, at the time of the announcement of the policy, that a hard date would lead to Pakistan hedging its bets and keeping its support to extremist allies operating in Afghanistan active.
The American President served up reminders of why the Afghanistan effort was critical to the United States.
He said, “I want to remind everyone, it was Afghanistan where Al Qaeda plotted and trained to murder 3,000 innocent people on 9/11. It is Afghanistan and the tribal regions of Pakistan where terrorists have launched other attacks against us and our allies. And if Afghanistan were to be engulfed by an even wider insurgency, Al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates would have even more space to plan their next attack. And as President of the United States, I refuse to let that happen.”
That perspective was far different from the one he voiced about Iraq, where the game will completely change. As he said, “As agreed to with the Iraqi government, we will maintain a transitional force until we remove all our troops from Iraq by the end of next year.”