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US needs a tougher policy on Pakistan: Obama
Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington | June 19, 2008 09:47 IST
"We should finish the fight against Al Qaida and Taliban instead of going into Iraq. We need to take more resources and put them in Afghan - at least two additional combat brigades and US$ 1 billion in non-military assistance each year," Obama said on Wednesday during a Retired Flag Officers event.
"And I've repeatedly challenged George Bush [Images] and John McCain's [Images] refusal to hold the Pakistani government accountable for inability to crack down on Al Qaida and Taliban operating within their borders. We are not going to get Afghanistan right until we get our Pakistan policy right," he said.
Obama's comments follow criticism by McCain that he lacked the national security expertise needed to become president.
"Why don't they explain to the American people what exactly we're doing in Iraq � staying indefinitely, building permanent bases in a country that doesn't want them and shortchanging our efforts in Afghanistan and our ability to deal with nearly every other national security challenge that we face," Obama said.
"We can finally end this disastrous approach to national security, because the record shows that George Bush and John McCain have been weak on terrorism. Their approach has failed. Because of their policies, we are less safe, less respected, less able to lead the world," he said.
Meanwhile, the Obama campaign has refuted charges by Republicans that the Illinois senator is naive in foreign policy issues.
"What Obama's got and all these people lack is judgment on critical foreign policy issues of the day. There's two ways to fight this war on terrorism: smart and stupid. We've had seven years of stupid on the part of George Bush and John McCain," Obama's top foreign policy adviser Susan Rice said in a teleconference with reporters.
"Let's go back and review the record. We had Osama bin Laden and his cadre trapped in Tora Bora. This administration allowed them to escape. They diverted our attention from Afghanistan and Al Qaida and sent us to a war in Iraq that had nothing to do with 9/11," Rice said.
"We spent US$ one trillion. We've lost over 4,000 lives in Iraq. And we're less safe. Our standing in the world is reduced. The Taliban is resurging in Afghanistan, and we're seeing attacks today," she said.
Stung by the swift response, the McCain campaign tried to take the heat off the blame game by stressing the need for a civil debate on the issues.
"We don't want to engage in name-calling. We want to have an honest, civil debate about the issues. And we're happy to talk about McCain's position and Obama's position on things like designating Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group or on consequences of withdrawal from Iraq and what that would do to strengthen Al Qaida in Iraq," McCain's top financial adviser Randy Scheunemann said.