ISLAMABAD (AFP) – US President Barack Obama said in an interview Sunday he was confident Pakistan can “isolate extremists” and that the United States had no plans to send troops to the insurgency-hit country.
“I have confidence in the Pakistani people and the Pakistani state in resolving differences through a democratic process and to isolate extremists,” he said in a pre-recorded interview broadcast Sunday by Dawn News television.
Pakistani security forces launched an offensive to dislodge Taliban guerrillas from three northwest districts around Swat valley in late April, after militants flouted a peace deal and thrust towards the capital Islamabad.
The US administration, which has put nuclear-armed Pakistan at the heart of its strategy to battle Al-Qaeda, has welcomed the Swat offensive.
Obama said the United States would support the Pakistani government and military in its anti-militant efforts.
“There’s been a decision that’s made that we support, that the Pakistani military and the Pakistani government will not stand by idly as extremists attempt to disrupt the country.”
However, Obama said that the United States had no plans to send its troops to Pakistan.
“I will tell you that we have no intention of sending US troops into Pakistan. Pakistan and its military are dealing with their security issues,” he said when asked about US missile strikes into Pakistani tribal areas.
Such regions are wracked by violence and are known as a hub for Taliban and Al-Qaeda rebels who fled across the border to escape the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.
Missile attacks by unmanned drone aircraft used by US armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency operating in Afghanistan are a source of tension between Washington and Islamabad.
Pakistan publicly opposes the strikes, saying they violate its territorial sovereignty and deepen resentment among the populace. Since August 2008, more than 40 such strikes have killed nearly 400 people.
However, Obama said that worsening Taliban-linked attacks, including the bombing of a luxury hotel in Peshawar and twin suicide bombings at mosques that killed prominent anti-Taliban cleric Sarfraz Naeemi, were deepening public resentment.
“I think the Pakistani government and the people of Pakistan recognise that when you have extremists who are assassinating moderate clerics like Dr Naeemi, when you have explosions that are killing innocent women and children, that that can’t be the path for development and prosperity for Pakistan,” he said.
Such attacks have killed nearly 2,000 people in Pakistan since July 2007.
Referring to Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who led the freedom movement that resulted in the creation of an independent state of Pakistan in August 1947 from British-ruled India, Obama said Pakistan could overcome its own problems.
“Dating back to Jinnah, Pakistan has always had a history of overcoming difficulties. There’s no reason why it can’t overcome those difficulties today,” he said.