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26/11 attacks showed Pakistan 'broke its promise'

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | December 15, 2008 09:07 IST

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Former US Secretary of State General (Retd) Colin Powell has said that in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks [Images], Pakistan can no longer afford "to wink and nod" and pretend there are no terrorist groups operating within its borders that are a threat to the stability of the region.

Powell, who agreed that there were similarities between the Mumbai attacks and the attack in December 2001 when the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad had launched attacks on the Indian Parliament, said at the time Islamabad [Images] had promised to completely eliminate and dismantle these terrorist networks, and was surprised to find that seven years later they were still very much alive and thriving.

Appearing on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS program, Powell acknowledged that when he went to Pakistan in 2001, the Pakistani authorities said they were going to eliminate them (the LeT and JeM). 'They promised, and went about saying, 'See, they are not there anymore'.'

'Well, where did they go? Well, they are somewhere. They changed names and they changed forms,' he said of Pakistan's broken promise.

Powell said, 'Just the other day, the Pakistani government arrested a number of people and said they had raided seven camps. And, the question that immediately occurred to me -- why are there seven camps?'

'And, so, the Pakistanis have to make a strategic choice,' he argued, adding, 'Both, a political choice and a military choice and a choice on the part of the Inter-Services Security apparatus that we can no longer pay the price of having this kind of terrorist organization, inside Pakistan; and, we can no longer wink and nod and pretend that it isn't there and they have to take them on.'

Powell warned that if Pakistan does not take these terrorist groups on and eliminate them once and for all, 'You will have these incidents over time and the situation will remain unstable.'

He reiterated, 'I would say to my Pakistani friends, don't let it happen again. Don't allow these kinds of organisations to exist in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir or anywhere else.'

Powell bemoaned that the terror attacks had come at a time when there had been 'a lot of progress' inĀ ties between India and Pakistan since 2001. 'I was very pleased to see, first, bus travel start, and then of cricket teams going back and forth -- that's how you sort of start to build confidence, and both nations have benefited from that.'

'So, I sense that as tragic as this four-day period was in Mumbai, both Indians and Pakistanis realise you cannot let these 10 murderers -- these 10 terrorists -- drive the policies of two countries where these policies have brought them some rapprochement and progress in recent years. So, let us get the emotion out of this, let us talk to one another and let us see if we can find all the perpetrators."

However, Powell was also apologetic for Pakistan, saying it has had its own politicalĀ  turmoil in recent months and the situation boiling over from Afghanistan into the tribal areas had made it that much more difficult. 'Pakistan has a new government -- a relatively new government -- that I don't think is yet completely secure in power.'

As a result, Powell argued that the United States and the international community have 'to be sensitive to that and we have got to help this new government'.

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