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Time to take strong action against Pakistan: Curtis

Obama administration should take strong steps against Pakistan, including suspension of all US aid, if Islamabad maintains its defiant attitude and refuses to take action against the perpetrators of the attacks on the US embassy in Afghanistan, a US expert has said.

world Updated: Sep 27, 2011 10:49 IST

Obama administration should take strong steps against Pakistan, including suspension of all US aid, if Islamabad maintains its defiant attitude and refuses to take action against the perpetrators of the attacks on the US embassy in Afghanistan, a US expert has said.

"If Pakistani leaders maintain their defiance in light of the new information on the cell phone links of the attackers to Pakistani intelligence, the US should begin to take punitive steps toward Islamabad that could presage a breakdown in US–Pakistan diplomatic relations," Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation said yesterday.

Curtis, who is an expert on South Asia, was referring to US press reports which revealed that cell phones found on the attackers in the September 13 attack on the US embassy in Kabul were linked to Pakistani intelligence officials.

"Unless Pakistan agrees to take recourse against those ISI officials involved in the September 13 attack and to work more closely with the US in confronting the Haqqani network, the US will have to recalibrate its policy toward Pakistan, despite the potential negative repercussions for other US interests in the region," she said.

Curtis asked the Obama Administration to several strong steps in the event that Pakistan maintains its defiant attitude and refuses to take action against the perpetrators of the attacks on the US embassy. Seeking to suspend all assistance programmes to Pakistan, including civilian aid, Curtis said even though it is the military and intelligence establishment that bears responsibility for the attack, it would be nearly impossible to provide effective civilian aid programmes without its cooperation.

"Recall the American ambassador to the US for consultations on future policies toward Pakistan," she said. "The intelligence linking Pakistan to the attack on the US embassy should shake the Administration out of this paralysis. The attack shows that the US’s inability to bring change to Pakistan’s counter-terrorism policies is risking the entire NATO war effort in Afghanistan and the international community's ability to defeat global terrorism," she said.

Arguing to readjust the US force structure in Afghanistan and prioritise finding alternative routes to cope with a disruption or even cutoff in supply routes through Pakistan, Curtis said the US has been able to increase the amount of supplies it sends through the Northern Distribution Network over the last five years, and it should prioritise building up this network further.

She also demanded to immediately list the Haqqani network as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation, reverse US withdrawal plans from Afghanistan and consult with European allies on ways to move Pakistan away from the dangerous path it is pursuing.

Calling to step up drone strikes on Haqqani targets in Pakistan's tribal areas, she said the increased tempo in drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas has severely downgraded the al-Qaeda leadership and disrupted its ability to attack the US Washington should pursue the same kind of aggressive drone campaign against the Haqqani network in North Waziristan and parts of the Kurram Agency, where some Haqqani forces have recently relocated. "While there are risks inherent to going down a more punitive path with Pakistan, the recent information on ISI links to the attack on the US embassy leave the US with no other option," Curtis said.

However, she said there is still time for Pakistan to chart a different course. "Pakistan's military leaders can begin changes within the security establishment that punish individuals involved in attacks on the US and close down ISI operations that support the Haqqani network. Their choices within the next few days will determine the future course of the US-Pakistan relationship," she said.