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Obama offers Pakistan incentives to get tough with extremists

WASHINGTON — President Obama has offered Pakistan an expanded strategic partnership, including additional military and economic cooperation, while warning with unusual bluntness that its use of insurgent groups to pursue policy goals "cannot continue."

The offer, including an effort to help reduce tensions between Pakistan and India, was contained in a two-page letter delivered to President Asif Ali Zardari this month by national security adviser James Jones. It was accompanied by assurances from Jones, a retired Marine Corps general, that the United States will increase its military and civilian efforts in Afghanistan, and plans no early withdrawal.

Obama's speech Tuesday night at West Point, N.Y., will address primarily the Afghanistan aspects of the strategy. But despite the public and political attention focused on the number of new troops, Pakistan has been the hot core of the monthslong strategy review. The long-term consequences of failure there, the review concluded, far outweigh those in Afghanistan.

Proffered U.S. carrots, outlined during Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's October visit to Islamabad, center on a far more comprehensive and long-term bilateral relationship. It would feature enhanced development and trade assistance; improved intelligence collaboration and a more secure and upgraded military equipment pipeline; more public praise and less public criticism of Pakistan; and an initiative to build greater regional cooperation among Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

Obama called for closer collaboration against all extremist groups, and his letter named five: al-Qaida, the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Pakistani Taliban organization known as Tehrik-e-Taliban. Using vague diplomatic language, he said that ambiguity in Pakistan's relationship with any of them could no longer be ignored.

The rollout of the new strategy is being coordinated with principal U.S. allies, including Britain, whose prime minister, Gordon Brown, said Sunday, "People are going to ask why, eight years after 2001, Osama bin Laden has never been near to being caught.

"Al-Qaida has a base in Pakistan," Brown said in an interview with Sky News. "That base is still there — they are able to recruit from abroad. The Pakistan authorities must convince us that they are taking all the action that is necessary to deal with that threat."

fast facts

Power transfer

Pakistan's main opposition party Sunday demanded the president give up the sweeping powers he inherited from his predecessor. On Friday, Asif Ali Zardari transferred a Gen. Pervez Musharraf-era power — the command of the country's nuclear arsenal — to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Shahbaz Sharif, brother of main opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and chief minister of Pakistan's largest province, Punjab, said Zardari should act now to transfer the other powers, noting that the president had already promised to do so. "The nation would appreciate this act," Sharif told reporters Sunday.

Obama offers Pakistan incentives to get tough with extremists 11/29/09 [Last modified: Sunday, November 29, 2009 10:34pm]

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