WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama did not ask President Asif Ali Zardari to launch a military operation in North Waziristan when the two leaders met at the White House on Friday, says US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.“They didn't get into the details of those kinds of military or counter-terrorism operations,” said Mr Donilon when asked at a briefing if the subject of North Waziristan came up during the meeting and if President Obama pressed Mr Zardari on when Pakistan was sending its troops to the area.
President Obama came to the meeting with his top security advisers, creating the impression that US concerns about the war against terror in the Pak-Afghan region dominated the talks.
This impression was strengthened when President Zardari had a 90-minute meeting with CIA chief Leon Panetta after his talks at the White House.
Mr Panetta came to the hotel where Mr Zardari was staying with other senior CIA officials, including those who deal directly with the war.
But both Mr Donilon and Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani later told reporters that since the main purpose of Mr Zardari's visit to Washington was to attend Ambassador Richard Holbrooke's memorial service, both sides avoided discussing specific issues.
Both, however, acknowledged that the war on terror was one of major issues discussed by the two presidents. And this was obvious at the memorial service as well where both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton underlined Pakistan's importance in the war against terror while eulogising Ambassador Holbrooke's achievements.
Mr Obama noted that his late envoy for the region worked hard to advance peace and progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “He understood that the futures of Afghanistan and Pakistan are tied together,” said the US president.
In Afghanistan, he said, Mr Holbrooke cultivated areas like agriculture and governance to seed stability.
“With Pakistan, he created new habits of cooperation to overcome decades of mistrust.” Mr Holbrooke also reached out to “young boys and girls from the tribal regions of Pakistan to whom he pledged our country's friendship,” the US president said.
“I am confident that the work he had done and was doing in Afghanistan and Pakistan will also stand the test of time,” said Mrs Clinton.
“And I greatly appreciate President Zardari coming all the way to be with us today,” said Secretary Clinton to a warm applause from the audience.
She recalled that the High Peace Council that Ambassador Holbrooke helped launch in Afghanistan was working and just sent a delegation to Pakistan.
“And despite all the challenges (Mr Holbrooke faced in Pakistan and Afghanistan) … he remained optimistic and positive about what we could do together,” the secretary said.