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US aid tied to terror fight

world Updated: Jun 10, 2011 01:10 IST

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Any decisions on future US security aid to Islamabad will be based on Pakistan's response to the counter-terrorism steps proposed by the United States, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director Leon Panetta has said.

Panetta said in a 79-page set of answers to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee in advance of his confirmation hearing scheduled for June 9 that an accelerated counterterrorism campaign in the Af-Pak border region is "vital" for the US to defeat al Qaeda there and prevent its return.

Any decisions on future US security assistance "will be informed" by Pakistan's response to the "concrete steps" the US has set for counterterrorism cooperation, said Panetta, who is nominated to succeed defence secretary Robert Gates.

The US "train-advise-equip" programs with Pakistani military and paramilitary forces have been important in eliminating terrorist sanctuaries and disrupting the al Qaeda network, Bloomberg quoted Panetta, as saying.

"It is vital, however, that Pakistan live up to its end of the bargain, cooperating more fully in counterterrorism matters and ceasing to provide sanctuary to Afghan Taliban and other insurgent groups," he added.

The CIA chief noted that Pakistan continues to lack the necessary military and civilian capacities to "hold" and "build" in areas along the border region that have been cleared of al Qaeda forces.

Since 2009, Pakistan has undertaken counterinsurgency operations against extremist organizations in the northwest, including in Swat, South Waziristan, Mohmand and Bajaur, "with varying levels of success," he said.