WASHINGTON: An influential US think-tank urged the Obama administration on Friday to freeze its aid to Pakistan until the country took actions against perpetrators of the US Embassy attack in Kabul and helped shut down the Haqqani network.
The Heritage Foundation, often used by former US president George W. Bush to announce foreign policy decisions, also asked the administration to back Congress on conditioning all US aid to Pakistan on certain counter-terrorism benchmarks. But the report warned that while this would be “a welcome tactic, it may be insufficient”.
The foundation demanded that the Obama administration designate the Haqqani network a Foreign Terrorist Organisation. It argued that failing to do so after the Sept. 13 attack on the US Embassy in Kabul would signal America’s weakness and invite additional attacks on its interests in Afghanistan.
The report also proposed establishing a congressional commission to oversee US relations with Pakistan. “Congress should investigate Pakistan’s role in fomenting the insurgency in Afghanistan and the extent to which its actions were preventing the US and Nato from achieving their security objectives in the region,” the report added.
The foundation also advised the Obama administration to step up drone attacks inside Pakistan. It pointed out that increased tempo in drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas had severely downgraded the Al Qaeda leadership and disrupted its ability to attack the US.
“Washington should pursue the same kind of aggressive drone campaign against the Haqqani network,” the report demanded.
The foundation also issued a fact-sheet to back its claim that the Obama administration needed to have a plan ‘B’ for dealing with Pakistan if it continued to ‘defy’ Washington.
The fact-sheet described Pakistan as “the main obstacle to progress in Afghanistan” because it “proxies conducting brazen attacks on US interests”.
The report claimed that the Haqqani network, which the former military chief Admiral Mike Mullen called a ‘veritable arm’ of ISI, was based in Pakistan and was planning and carrying out attacks at US interests in Afghanistan.
The foundation also urged the White House to change its Afghan strategy, noting that President Obama’s aggressive withdrawal plan to remove 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by next September only “reinforces the Pakistani view that the US will turn its back” on the region. “We cannot afford to leave a void the Taliban can again fill. We should make clear that the US will remain engaged.”