US plans to work with Pakistan for regional peace

Published February 7, 2015
U.S. President Barack Obama.—Reuters/File
U.S. President Barack Obama.—Reuters/File

WASHINGTON: A new US national security strategy, which President Barack Obama sent to Congress on Friday, underlines two key areas for engagement with Pakistan, bringing stability to Afghanistan and maintaining peace in South Asia.

“We will … work with the countries of the region, including Pakistan, to mitigate the threat from terrorism and to support a viable peace and reconciliation process to end the violence in Afghanistan and improve regional stability,” he said.

“We will continue to work with both India and Pakistan to promote strategic stability, combat terrorism, and advance regional economic integration in South and Central Asia.”

Take a look: Extremism not unique to Islam, says Obama

Mr Obama, who said on Thursday that extremism was not unique to Islam as other religions had this tendency too, once again dispelled the impression that the United States was fighting a war against Islam.

“We reject the lie that America and its allies are at war with Islam,” he said.

The strategy paper indicates that Washington intends to continue using unmanned aircraft to target militants.

“We endeavour to detain, interrogate, and prosecute terrorists through law enforcement. However, when there is a continuing, imminent threat, and when capture or other actions to disrupt the threat are not feasible, we will not hesitate to take decisive action,” it says.

“We will always do so legally, discriminately, proportionally, and bound by strict accountability and strong oversight,” it adds.

National security strategy unveiled by Obama envisages building capacity of vulnerable countries

The new strategy places great importance on America’s growing ties with India and pledges to “unlock the potential” of this relationship.

But it also points out that “the scope of our cooperation with China is unprecedented, even as we remain alert to China’s military modernisation and reject any role for intimidation in resolving territorial disputes.”

The new strategy informs Congress that “India’s potential, China’s rise, and Russia’s aggression all significantly impact the future of major power relations”.

The 2015 National Security Strategy notes that as the world’s largest democracies, the United States and India “share inherent values and mutual interests that form the cornerstone of our cooperation”.

“We support India’s role as a regional provider of security and its expanded participation in critical regional institutions,” President Obama said in the note he sent to Congress.

“We see a strategic convergence with India’s Act East policy and our continued implementation of the rebalance to Asia and the Pacific.”

But at the same time, he also pledged to work with India and Pakistan to improve their ties.

The most important shift highlighted in this document, deals with US military presence in foreign lands.

“Globally, we have moved beyond the large ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that defined so much of American foreign policy over the past decade,” Mr Obama said, noting that when he entered the White House, the United States had nearly 180,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan but now it had fewer than 15,000.

The new strategy also identifies countering extreme and dangerous ideologies, keeping nuclear materials from terrorists and preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons as its top priorities.

“We are now pursuing a more sustainable approach that prioritises targeted counter-terrorism operations, collective action with responsible partners, and increased efforts to prevent the growth of violent extremism and radicalisation that drives increased threats,” President Obama said.

Another essential component of the new strategy is to disrupt “the unprecedented flow of foreign terrorist fighters” to and from conflict zones.

“We will work to address the underlying conditions that can help foster violent extremism such as poverty, inequality, and repression,” Mr Obama said.

To achieve this goal, the new strategy emphasises the need for supporting alternatives to extremist messaging and providing greater economic opportunities for women and disaffected youth.

“We will help build the capacity of the most vulnerable states and communities to defeat terrorists locally,” Mr Obama said.

“Working with the Congress, we will train and equip local partners and provide operational support to gain ground against terrorist groups.”

The strategy underlines the need for supporting “more inclusive and accountable governance” in vulnerable states as key to winning the fight against extremists.

The strategy paper notes that in Afghanistan, the US has ended its combat mission and “transitioned to a dramatically smaller force focused on the goal of a sovereign and stable partner in Afghanistan that is not a safe haven for international terrorists”.

Published in Dawn February 7th , 2015

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