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US turns up pressure on Pakistan to fight Taliban: NYT

December 8, 2009

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has warned Pakistan that the US will use considerably more force on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan if it does not act more aggressively against the Taliban, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

The blunt message was delivered in a tense encounter in Pakistan last month, before President Barack Obama announced his new war strategy, the influential US daily said citing unnamed American and Pakistani officials.

The message was delivered when Gen. James L. Jones, Obama’s national security adviser, and John O. Brennan, the White House counter-terrorism chief, met the heads of Pakistan’s military and its intelligence service, it said.

US officials cited by the Times said the message did not amount to an ultimatum, but rather was intended to prod a reluctant Pakistani military to go after Taliban insurgents in Pakistan who are directing attacks in Afghanistan.

For their part, the Pakistanis interpreted the message as a fairly bald warning that unless Pakistan moved quickly to act against two Taliban groups they have so far refused to attack, the US was prepared to take unilateral action.

Pakistanis believe the US may expand Predator drone attacks beyond the tribal areas and, if needed, to resume raids by Special Operations forces into the country against Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

The Times said a senior administration official, asked about the encounter, declined to go into details but added quickly, “I think they read our intentions accurately.”

The US daily cited a Pakistani official who has been briefed on the meetings as saying, “Jones’s message was if that Pakistani help wasn’t forthcoming, the United States would have to do it themselves.”

The recent security demands followed an offer of a broader strategic relationship and expanded intelligence sharing and non-military economic aid from the US.

Pakistan’s politically weakened president, Asif Ali Zardari, replied in writing to a two-page letter that General Jones delivered from Obama. But Zardari gave no indication of how Pakistan would respond to the incentives, which were linked to the demands for greatly stepped-up counter-terrorism actions, the daily said.

“We’ve offered them a strategic choice,” one administration official cited by the Times said, describing the private communications. “And we’ve heard back almost nothing.” Another administration official was quoted as saying, “Our patience is wearing thin.”

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