WASHINGTON, (AFP) — A new US war review called Thursday for greater dialogue with Pakistan to deprive Al-Qaeda of save havens, saying ties between the two countries have improved but are “uneven.”
The strategy paper confirmed plans for President Barack Obama to visit Pakistan next year and for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to hold a three-way dialogue with Afghan and Pakistani foreign ministers in early 2011.
The long-awaited review of US war efforts marked a different tone from other recent US assessments, which have caused friction with Pakistan by questioning its willingness to fight extremists.
An overview of the report said that areas in relations with Pakistan “are headed in the right direction, both in terms of US focus and Pakistani cooperation.”
“Progress in our relationship with Pakistan over the last year has been substantial, but also uneven,” it said, calling for efforts in 2011 to “strengthen our dialogue with both Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
The United States and Pakistan worked over the past year “to disrupt the threat posed by Al-Qaeda, and Pakistan has made progress against extremist safe havens, taking action in six of seven agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas,” the review said.
“These gains came at great cost, as Pakistan has endured thousands of casualties in their military ranks and among their civilian population from terrorist attacks,” it said.
The document also pointed to “improvement in our security assistance, with increased training cooperation, more support for Pakistan’s military operations and greater border coordination.”
The assessment called for the United States to pursue its strategy of aid for Pakistan. The US Congress last year approved a 7.5 billion-dollar package and the United States has since been a leading provider of relief after Pakistan’s devastating floods.
“We believe our renewed bilateral partnership is helping promote stability in Pakistan,” the review said.
“It clearly communicates US commitment to a long-term relationship that is supportive of Pakistan’s interests, and underscores that we will not disengage from the region as we have in the past,” it said.
The White House released the report a day after two newspapers said that US intelligence agencies believed the US-led war effort would be doomed unless Pakistan cracks down on militant sanctuaries inside its border.
Military officers say that the Afghan Taliban and other militants move across the Pakistani border with impunity, allowing them to stage attacks against coalition troops, according to the assessment published by the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.
Pakistan’s government has also been livid at confidential US diplomatic memos released by WikiLeaks which have said that politicians in Islamabad approved of drone attacks on militant safe havens despite condemnations in public over violations of the country’s sovereignty.
The WikiLeaks memos also showed persistent US concerns that Pakistan was selective in fighting militants, maintaining ties to groups seen as useful in fighting historic rival India or in maintaining Islamabad’s influence in Afghanistan.