Pakistani, Afghan envoys say Obama plan not enough

WASHINGTON, April 9, 2009 (AFP) -The Pakistani and Afghan ambassadors here warned Thursday a US anti-terror escalation unveiled by President Barack Obama risked proving insufficient to break the back of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Both envoys called on the United States and its allies to provide more cash and military tools to defeat terrorism on the battlefield and alleviate the poverty and ignorance that sustains extremist ideology.

Pakistani ambassador Husain Haqqani welcomed the new Obama strategy, but contrasted the aid given to nations on the frontline of the war against terror with the multi-billion-dollar bailouts given to US companies in distress.

“The resources that are being committed may look big to some but very frankly, I think that a company on the verge of failure is quite clearly able to get a bigger bailout than a nation that is accused of failure,” he said.

“Why does Afghanistan or Pakistan get less resources allocated to solving a bigger problem … than say for example some failed insurance company or some car company whose real achievement is that they couldn’t make cars that they could sell?”

Obama last month put Pakistan at the center of the fight against Al-Qaeda as part of a new strategy dispatching 4,000 more troops, in addition to an extra 17,000 already committed, and billions of dollars to the Afghan war.

The plan includes a focus on Al-Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistan and boosting civilian efforts to build up both Afghanistan and Pakistan, notably in agriculture and education.

Afghan ambassador Said Jawad, speaking alongside Haqqani at a forum organized by Washington’s Atlantic Council think-tank, also said Obama’s new strategy marked a welcome reorganization of US goals.

But he stressed that Afghanistan needed more help for a major expansion of its security forces, from the 134,000 army troops and 82,000 police personnel foreseen in the Obama plan.

To counter the resurgent Taliban, the Afghan army should number at least 250,000 and the police 150,000, the envoy said.

“Right now you are paying with your blood and treasure in Afghanistan by sending your sons to fight for us,” Jawad said.

“The most sustainable way (to defeat extremism) is to create this capacity in us,” he said, insisting Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government was already tackling the endemic police corruption identified by foreign donors.

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