`Pakistan must be the focus of final US debate at Florida`

A former Central Intelligence Agency analyst would like the two presidential contenders to focus on Pakistan.

Washington: While the Republicans are itching for a fight over the Sep 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst would like the two presidential contenders to focus on Pakistan.

"The toughest foreign-policy issue our next president will face is Pakistan, the most dangerous country in the world," Bruce Riedel, wrote ahead of Monday`s third and final debate between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney.

"The battle for the soul of this critical nation is underway; we need to hear at Monday`s debate how President Obama and Governor Romney intend to get the right outcome in Pakistan," said Riedel, currently senior Fellow, Foreign Policy at Brookings Institution, who has advised last four presidents on South Asia and Middle East.

"It is the epicentre of the global jihad. From 9/11 to the 2008 attack on Mumbai, Al Qaeda and its allies like Lashkar-e-Taiba have plotted their schemes in Karachi, Lahore, and Abbottabad," he wrote in the Daily Beast.

Since the last US election in 2008, Pakistan has been the launch platform for plots to attack the New York City subway and Times Square, Riedel wrote noting three of the five terrorists on America`s most-wanted list are in Pakistan today.

Obama and Romney need to tell listeners Monday night how they will keep the pressure on the terrorists in Pakistan when the US brings its troops home from Afghanistan in 2014 and how will the US continue to undertake the necessary counter-terror missions from Afghan bases, Riedel wrote.

Meanwhile, in a preview of Monday`s debate in Boca Raton, Florida, the New York Times said both candidates will come ready for a fight on Libya and Benghazi "but the question is whether it is the right fight."

While Obama has already admitted mistakes and promised to get to the bottom of them, it said for Romney, the task is to show that the Benghazi attack was symptomatic of bigger failings in the Middle East.

Four experts at the Council on Foreign Relations, a Washington think - Stephen Biddle, Elizabeth Economy, Isobel Coleman and Robert Kahn had their own take on four key issues they believe warrant discussion during the debate: Afghanistan, China, the Middle East and the global economy.

Meanwhile, a new foreign policy poll by the Pew Research Centre found Americans split on whether Obama or Romney would fare better in foreign affairs, sceptical of where things are headed in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and open to talking tough to China on trade.

When it comes to who the public thinks will fare better on foreign policy, Obama who had a fifteen-point lead over Romney on foreign policy just a month ago, barely edges out Romney.

While Obama has a slight edge on "making wise decisions about foreign policy," handling Iran`s nuclear programme, and dealing with political instability in the Middle East, Romney has a nine-point edge when it comes to handling trade with China.