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'US won't allow safe havens for terrorists in Pak'

In a stern warning to Pak, US President Barack Obama asserted that his administration would not allow 'safe havens' for Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists operating with 'impunity' in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

world Updated: Feb 11, 2009 04:32 IST
Lalit K Jha
Lalit K Jha

In a stern warning to Pakistan, President Barack Obama on Tuesday asserted that his administration would not allow "safe havens" for Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists operating with "impunity" in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

This is the message his special envoy Richard Holbrooke, currently in Islamabad, has been asked to deliver to Pakistan, Obama said.

"My bottom line is that we cannot allow Al-Qaeda to operate. We cannot have those safe havens in that region," Obama said in his first press conference after assuming office on January 20.

"You've got the Taliban and al-Qaeda operating in the Federally-administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and these border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan," Obama said.

The 47-year-old President said one of the goals of Holbrooke, as he is traveling throughout the region, is to deliver a message to Pakistan that they are "endangered as much as we are by the continuation of those operations, and that we've got to work in a regional fashion to root out those safe havens."

Obama, who took questions on the situation in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran in his hour-long news conference, said the US has not seen concerted efforts to destroy such 'safe havens'.

"What we haven't seen is the kind of concerted effort to root out those safe havens that would ultimately make our mission successful," he said.

"We're going to have to work both smartly and effectively, but with consistency in order to make sure that those safe havens don't exist," he said.

The new administration is carrying out a thorough review of the US policies on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Obama said he appointed Holbrooke as Special US Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan with the purpose of eradicating terrorism from the restive tribal areas.

Holbrooke is currently in Pakistan from where he would be going to Afghanistan and then to India, for meeting and consulting with the leaders and people in the region.

"I've sent over -- Richard Holbrooke, one of our top diplomats -- to evaluate a regional approach. We are going to need more effective coordination of our military efforts with diplomatic efforts with development efforts with more effective coordination with our allies in order for us to be successful," Obama said.

When asked if he had any timetable for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Obama said: "I do not have yet a timetable for how long that's going to take. What I know is I'm not going to make -- I'm not going to allow Al-Qaeda or Osama Bin Laden to operate with impunity, planning attacks on the US homeland."

First Published: Feb 10, 2009 08:32 IST