Pakistan had promised to eliminate Lashkar-e-Taiba after the bloody attack on Indian Parliament seven years ago, but they haven't, former US Secretary of State Colin Powell has said.
"They promised. And they went about saying, see they are not there any more," Powell disclosed, saying that the group, suspected to have masterminded the Mumbai carnage, "changed names and changed form".
"Just the other day, Pakistan Government arrested a number of people and said they have raided seven camps," Powell said. "And the question that immediately occurred to me was why are there seven camps?"
But now, Powell, who was the Chairman Chief of Staff of the US Forces, feels US can no longer "wink and nod" on the presence of terrorist groups in Pakistan and Washington has to make it clear to Islamabad that "they have to take them on",
"We can no longer wink and nod and pretend that it (presence of terrorists groups in Pakistan) isn't there when it is there, and they have to take them on. And if they don't, then you will have these incidents over time, and the situation will remain unstable," he said.
Pakistanis have to make a strategic choice, both a political choice, a military choice and a choice on the part of Inter-Services security apparatus that "we can longer pay the price of having this kind of terrorist organisation inside Pakistan," Powell said in an interview to CNN.
For the first time, Powell, who was the Secretary of State when the Indian Parliament was attacked, admitted that previous crackdowns on organisations like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), had got away with just "cosmetic" show.
"But I would say to my Pakistani friends, don't let it happen again," Powell said.
"Don't allow these kinds of organisations to exist, either in Pakistan-Controlled Kashmir or anywhere else. I think they really have to go after them," the Former Secretary of state said.
Noting that there has a been a lot of progress in relations between India and Pakistan since parliament attack in 2001, Powell said both the countries should realise that "you cannot let these 10 murderers, these 10 terrorists, drive the policies of two countries where those policies have brought them some rapprochement and progress in recent years."
The former top diplomat said he was very pleased to see, first, bus travel start, and then cricket teams going back and forth.
"That's how you sort of start to build confidence," he said.
Asked why even after giving USD 10 billion of aid to Pakistan during former President Pervez Musharraf's regime, the US had not influenced the country, he said: "I think we did have considerable influence in the aftermath of the parliament and the army strikes back in 2001 and 2002.
"And the number of attacks that were taking place in Kashmir went down significantly. And there was considerable rapprochement, as I've said, and progress between the two countries."
He also expressed hope that the peace process between the two countries can move forward after getting the perpetrators of the crime.
Powell also said the US should help the new Government in Pakistan.
"So, I think that we should continue to try to do everything we can for President Zardari and his team, continue to provide aid to Pakistan, and see if we can help them deal with the Taliban problems in the tribal areas as well as go after Lashkar and other terrorist organizations," he said.
On Afghanistan, Powell said it did not matter whether American and NATO forces are bolstered by infusion of 20,000 or 40,000 troops. What was needed is getting a political and economic grip over the administration of the country.
Terming Afghanistan as one of the "real challenges" ahead for President-elect Barack Obama, Powell said the Taliban infested country was as much an economic problem as a military one and needed a "comprehensive approach" to be dealt with.
"I think one of the real challenges that President-elect Barack Obama will have when he goes into office is sitting down with his military commanders and with his diplomats and with his economic advisers -- because it is an economic problem as much as anything else -- and making a judgement as to what is the right approach," Powell said.
Sending more troops to Afghanistan will not suffice unless the move is accompanied by measures to reconstruct the economy, end the drug culture and curtail corruption.
"And so the president-elect, when he becomes president, with his team, is going to have to come up with a comprehensive approach to the problems of Afghanistan," he said.
On the question of America having a dialogue with the Syrian and Iranian regimes, Powell said it would be in Washington's interest to open conversation with both the countries.
"I believe, it would be in our interest to start talking again to the Syrians. And I believe now it would be in our interest to see if we can begin some kind of conversation with the Iranians," Powell said.