`US won`t accept any slackness by Pak Army in war on terror`

Holbrooke does not believe Americans are losing any battles against Taliban.

Islamabad: The US will not accept any "slackness" on the part of the Pakistan Army in the fight against the Taliban due to the military`s engagement in flood relief efforts, America`s special envoy for the Af-Pak region Richard Holbrooke has said.

"Neither the security situation has changed fundamentally, nor has the Taliban threat receded. With the Americans placed in a difficult situation in Afghanistan, we certainly will not like to see slackness on the part of the Pakistan Army in the war on terror," Holbrooke told reporters yesterday.

Responding to a question about the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner`s claim that Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Omar is in Pakistan, Holbrooke said, "Yes, the (US) Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton) has also said the same thing, but I don`t know where Mullah Omar is."

The US has always contended that Taliban elements who renounce al Qaeda would be welcomed back into Afghan politics, the visiting US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan said.

Holbrooke said he did not "believe that the Americans are losing any battles or war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Rather, a recent surge of US forces would improve the situation in eastern Afghanistan soon," he said.

He praised the resilience of the Pakistani people during the unprecedented floods and commended the role of the Pakistan Army in rescue and relief operations. The civilian government was doing a "tremendous job" of taking along all political forces at this difficult juncture, he said.

"The US reposes its full confidence in (the government`s) abilities and intentions. Therefore, I do not see bad governance as an issue here. It`s just the enormity of the disaster that I believe no government in the world could have handled this kind of disaster," he said.

Holbrooke said there was little to substantiate speculation that the PPP-led government was on its way out. "I don`t see evidence that the government is drowning," he remarked.

The government is "doing the best they can in unbelievably difficult circumstances," Holbrooke said.

At the same time, he made it clear that Pakistan needs to improve its revenue collection so that the world could see some seriousness on the part of the government in tackling the country`s economic problems.

Responding to a question about aid for flood victims being routed through UN agencies and not through the government, Holbrook said, "We are giving aid to institutions we believe can do the relief work, while some of our aid is also going directly to the government."

He said the US will stand "side by side with the Pakistani people in this hour of need”.

The US has contributed generously to relief efforts and will do more for rehabilitation work by mobilising other countries and UN officials, he said.

The US administration is working to speed up the reimbursement of Pakistan`s security-related expense from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF).

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has called on the US to speed up payments from the CSF, which have been held up because of stringent auditing processes adopted by American authorities to prevent the diversion of funds meant for the war on terror.