Another attack to reignite Indo-Pak tensions: Petraeus
By Anwar Iqbal
Thursday, 18 Mar, 2010 | 06:15 AM PST | US Army Gen. David Petraeus (L), commander of the US Central Command, testifies during a hearing on the FY2011 National Defense Authorization Budget Requests before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington, DC. –AFP Photo/Chip Somodevilla
WASHINGTON: Another terrorist attack in India could reignite India-Pakistan tensions in 2010, increasing the risk of miscalculation between two nuclear states, warns commander of the US Central Command, Gen David Petraeus.
The general, who looks after US war efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq, also urged India and Pakistan to continue discussions begun on Feb 25 “in order to reduce the strategic tension and the risk of miscalculation between these nuclear states”.
In a testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday afternoon, Gen Petraeus noted that Indo-Pakistani tensions had eased since 2008, but warned that “they could easily reignite in 2010, particularly in the event of another significant terrorist attack in India”.
A major escalation in these tensions, he noted, would almost certainly result in the immediate redeployment to the east of Pakistani forces currently deployed to confront militants in the west, risking forfeiture of gains in Fata and the NWFP.
Gen Petraeus told lawmakers that the Pakistan Counter-insurgency Capability Fund, the $11.3 billion International Monetary Fund grant, and other key initiatives temporarily pulled Pakistan back from the brink of an impending economic collapse a year ago and helped increase Pakistan’s capacity for counter-insurgency operations. But he stressed that “continued support for these initiatives is critical to enabling the Pakistani government to continue its fight and to expand the writ of governance”.
The general told US lawmakers that the possibility of significant instability in Pakistan posed a serious threat to regional and global security, in large part, because Pakistan remained a critical strategic foothold for Al Qaeda and was important to the organisation’s efforts to rally supporters worldwide.
Although he conceded that Al Qaeda senior leaders were under considerably more pressure in Pakistan than in previous years, the general noted that Fata still served as Al Qaeda’s principal sanctuary.
“And these leaders continue to plan and inspire regional and trans-national operations from the Fata, while maintaining the ability to function as a structured organisation, and foreign fighters continue to travel to Pakistan for training and to join Al Qaeda,” he warned.
Another cause for US concern in Pakistan, he said, was that the country continued to face a serious insurgency fuelled by militants operating from Fata with casualties from violent incidents in Pakistan, particularly bombings and suicide attacks having increased dramatically over the past year.
But one positive development, Gen Petraeus noted, was that the people and leaders of Pakistan had increasingly grown to see these groups as serious threats, and the Pakistani security forces had stepped up operations against insurgents, “showing impressive determination and skill”.
The US, he said, was working to forge a stronger partnership with Pakistan and to support its efforts in two ways. First, it aimed to strengthen the military’s capacity to target insurgent groups through the development of Pakistan’s counter-insurgency capabilities. Second, it supported Pakistan’s governmental and economic development.
“We recognise the need for considerable assistance to Pakistan as they continue their operations, and we will continue to work with Congress in seeking ways to support Pakistan’s military,” he added. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/front-page/14-another-attack-to-reignite-indopak-tensions-petraeus-830-zj-04