Regional repercussions if Qaeda `returns` to Afghan: Holbrooke

The top US diplomat says Obama admin has scaled down its goal in Afghanistan.

Updated: Jul 29, 2010, 15:22 PM IST

Washington: As lawmakers increasingly questioned the continued presence of US forces in Afghanistan, America`s special envoy for Af-Pak region Richard Holbrooke has warned that a "return" of al Qaeda and Taliban to the war-torn country would have regional repercussions extending from Beirut to the Himalayas.

At a Congressional hearing, Holbrooke argued that the US would not be choosing to fight on the most remote and difficult terrain in the world if it had not been attacked on September 11, 2001.

His remarks came as several lawmakers sought the justification of spending tax payers` money for the continued presence of US forces in Afghanistan.

"If the outcome is not a good one, al Qaeda will return to Afghanistan with the Taliban, and there will be regional repercussions that will extend from Beirut to the Himalayas, so we have to deal with those," Holbrooke said in response to a question.

However, he informed the Congressmen that the Obama administration has scaled down its goal in Afghanistan as against those of the previous Bush administration.

"When we took office, we inherited a mission statement from the previous administration, which I don`t know if it was public or not, but it was extraordinarily ambitious. It was creating a modern state, a modern democracy in Afghanistan, with limited resources," he said.

"The President (Barack Obama) narrowed the mission to a reasonable, achievable goal, and increased the resources ...That was the core of what we did in Afghanistan," he said.

Holbrooke said in the new strategy the US wants to get Afghanistan to a reasonable level of stability and security.

"But we`re not illusional," he said.

With an illiteracy rate as high as they have, with the poorest non-African country in the world, and the distortions in the situation of the economy caused by international presence and history, there are limits to what the US can do for Afghanistan, he argued.

The top American diplomat also said that the US will not succeed in Afghanistan unless Pakistan is part of the solution.

"Not just Pakistan, however, Pakistan is part of a region that includes other major countries," he said.

"To the west of Afghanistan is a country (Iran) we have another kind of problem with. To the north, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and beyond them Russia. China borders on Afghanistan with a serious vested interest. And beyond that is India," he observed.

"So this is the most complicated region you could imagine, but at the core of it, Pakistan must be part of the solution. President Obama directed early last year that we change the relationship with Pakistan number one, and number two we try to change relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan...," Holbrooke said.