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Pak focus of new US plan

world Updated: Sep 17, 2009 23:19 IST

The Obama administration’s road map to winning the war in Afghanistan relies heavily on clearing Al Qaeda terrorists from Pakistan, according to a list of benchmarks given on Wednesday to an increasingly skeptical Congress.

The unclassified list of 46 benchmarks outlines how the administration plans to track success in the war against insurgents in Afghanistan and the effort to hunt terrorists inside Pakistan.

The top American goal for the region is described as disrupting terrorist networks in Afghanistan “and especially Pakistan.”

Stabilizing Pakistan always has been a key part of the US administration’s strategy. But its prominence in the long-anticipated benchmarks for the Afghanistan war signals a longer view than just gauging whether the conflict is being won.

“It’s going to be much broader than just combat troops,” Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, a Democrat, said after being briefed by top Obama administration officials about an on-the-ground assessment of the situation in Afghanistan.

For months, Washington’s focus on the eight-year war in Afghanistan has been whether US would commit more troops to the fight. Congress is divided over the question, and President Barack Obama said he will not rush his decision.

Levin opposes sending more US troops until thousands more Afghan security forces are trained. He was one of dozens of senators and House of Representatives lawmakers from crucial oversight committees who were given the draft benchmarks as part of the classified briefing on the assessment that was prepared last month by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Levin sounded unimpressed by the assessment itself. “Basically, they didn’t tell us anything we don’t already know,” he said. His Republican counterpart, John McCain, emerged from the briefing calling the proposed Obama benchmarks “a start,” but not specific enough.

The list of benchmarks, obtained by The Associated Press outlines objectives and emphasizes Pakistan’s importance. It did not include an annex of classified benchmarks specifically measuring how to disrupt terror networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan to prevent them from planning and launching international terror attacks.