WASHINGTON, July 15: White House hopeful Barack Obama warned Pakistanis on Tuesday that if they cannot root out terrorism from the tribal area, America will do it for them.
Mr Obama’s threat came minutes after US President George W. Bush promised to investigate Afghan charges that Pakistani intelligence agencies are involved in a series of terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan.
“We cannot tolerate a terrorist sanctuary, and as president, I won’t,” he said. “We must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like (Osama) bin Laden if we have them in our sights.”
In a major foreign policy speech in Washington, Mr Obama said that Al Qaeda had established a threatening “terrorist sanctuary” in Fata and promised to shift US focus from Iraq to Afghanistan to combat the threat emanating from Pakistan’s tribal areas if elected.
“Al Qaeda has an expanding base in Pakistan that is probably no farther from their old Afghan sanctuary than a train ride from Washington to Philadelphia,” Mr Obama said.
“If another attack on our homeland comes, it will likely come from the same region where 9/11 was planned. And yet today, we have five times more troops in Iraq than Afghanistan.”
Mr Obama said the Bush administration’s “single-minded and open-ended” focus on Iraq “by any measure … is not a sound strategy for keeping America safe.”
He promised to make Iraqis provide for their own security and use the troops freed from there for striking Al Qaeda in Pakistan. “Iraq is not going to be a perfect place, and we don’t have unlimited resources to try to make it one,” he said.
Senator Obama has proposed adding two US combat brigades, about 9,000 troops, to the 36,000 troops already in Afghanistan and said this would be made possible by a drawdown of troops from Iraq.
He also called for changes to US policy towards Pakistan, saying Bush had offered a “blank cheque” to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in the form of US military aid.