`US report slams Pak for not doing enough against terrorists`

Pakistan is not doing enough to combat terrorists and extremists in its restive tribal belt where some of the most wanted insurgents are hiding.

Last Updated: Oct 06, 2010, 18:22 PM IST

Washington: Pakistan is not doing enough to combat terrorists and extremists in its restive tribal belt where some of the most wanted insurgents are hiding, says a new White House report, which also censured President Asif Ali Zardari`s leadership.

"The Pakistan military continued to avoid military engagements that would put it in direct conflict with Afghan Taliban or al Qaeda forces in North Waziristan," the `Wall Street Journal` reported citing the 27-page White House report which is to be given to Congress.

The declassified report seen by the Journal also expressed concern about Pakistan`s refusal to send more troops to the lawless tribal area, which is believed to be hiding some of the most wanted insurgents who are attacking American troops in Pakistan.

"This is as much a political choice as it is a reflection of an under-resourced military prioritising its targets," the report said.

The White House report could strain relations between the two allies and also cause Congress to cutback on billions of dollars of aid, according to the paper.

In South Waziristan, the report noted that Pakistan is unable to stabilise area after clearing it of militants, which leads to operations advancing slowly.

There, "the military largely stayed close to the roads and did not engage against those (Pakistani Taliban) militants who returned after fleeing into North Waziristan," it said.

Noting that Islamabad had provided 140,000 soldier in the tribal areas, the report said the Pakistani military was nonetheless constrained to disrupting and displacing extremists groups without making lasting gains against the insurgency.

It underlined the growing frustration among US officials with Pakistan, which insists that it is the worst victim of terrorism as well as the country that is paying the heaviest price for combating it, the WSJ said.

"The report reflects that there are real challenges we have with Pakistan," said an Obama administration official, noting that these problems were being discussed with Pakistan.

The Journal further reported that in a letter accompanying the report, President Barack Obama told Congress that no change in the Af-Pak policy was needed at this time.

"We are continuing to implement the policy as described in December and do not believe further adjustments are required at this time," Obama wrote.

During his visit to New York in September for the UN General Assembly session, Pakistan`s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi pointed out that thousands of their civilians and troops had died in combating terrorism, which had cost the country around USD 50 billion.

The White House report also critiqued Zardari`s leadership and his decision to travel abroad at a time when floods were ravaging Pakistan.

"President Zardari`s decision to travel to Europe despite the floods exacerbated inter-party tensions, civil-military relations had damaged his image in the domestic and international media," it said.

The report, as cited by the WSJ, also found that confidence in the civilian government has fallen from 38 percent at the end of 2009 to 31 percent in mid-2010, while confidence in the military has grown from 75 percent to 82 percent during the same period.

The report also criticised the Pakistani government for not managing its budget properly as well as the new funds coming into the country for flood relief efforts.

It pointed out "a lack of political will on budget implementation and overall donor assistance continues to be a major challenge”.

PTI