The safe haven provided to al Qaeda, the Taliban [Images], and the alliances among the extremist groups in Pakistan, is not just a threat to the stability of the Pakistani government, but also a threat to stability in Afghanistan, and a much broader threat to the region and America, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [Images] has said.
In an interview with ABC News in Tokyo, during the first leg of her Asia visit, a transcript of which was made available here, she also agreed with the recent threat assessment by the Director of National Intelligence, Retd. Admiral Dennis Blair who said that the global economic downturn was a bigger national security interest threat in the near-term than even terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
But Hillary turned her defense of Blair -- who has been roundly criticized for contending that the economic meltdown is a greater threat than terrorism -- around by saying the global downturn that has affected Pakistan, which also gives a safe haven to terrorists could metastasize into a deadly brew.
'What Director Blair was saying, which is a very important point, is we get fixated sometimes on the headlines of dangers. And, that is not, in anyway, to underestimate the continuing threat of terrorism, the instability of Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan and elsewhere. But, this economic crisis, left unresolved, will create massive unemployment. It will upend governments, it will, unfortunately, breed instability."
And, then singling out Pakistan, she said, "I appreciated his putting that into the context of the threat matrix, because look at Pakistan, a country that we know has to be stabilized for the benefit of not only South Asia, but beyond."
"It is where the terrorists and their allies have found haven," she said. "But the economy in Pakistan is under even greater pressure now because of the global economic crisis."
Hillary warned that "if Pakistan becomes more financially unstable, that increases the danger that we will face from the threat by the extremists to the Pakistani government".
On the question of the civilian government of President Asif Zardari in Islamabad [Images] capitulating to the demands of the Taliban and acquiescing to Sharia Law in the Swat Valley, the Obama [Images] Administration's top diplomat was circumspect.
"We are trying to determine exactly what was agreed to. There have been some contradictory reports about what was or wasn't agreed to, and, you know, I want to wait until I have a full understanding before I comment," she said.
When she was reminded that the Minister of the Province had said the government troops would only respond if attacked but would not carry out any offensive operations anymore again the Taliban, she reiterated,
"Again, I want to get the whole picture of what it is they're attempting to achieve. There were, as I said, some contradictory communications from the government as to what was really going on, and, we want to sort that out before we say anything."
Asked if this was a concern, Clinton once again emphasized the threat posed from Pakistan's providing safe haven to the al Qaeda terrorist network, the Taliban and their extremist allies.
"The entire situation in Pakistan is a concern," she said. "That's why we are conducting a policy review that looks at Pakistan and Afghanistan. That's why, when the President and I decided to have a Special Representative, it was for both Afghanistan and Pakistan."
Clinton argued that "we understand the instability in Pakistan, the safe haven given to al Qaeda and to the Taliban, the alliances among the extremist groups, is a threat to the stability of the Pakistani government, a threat to stability in Afghanistan, and a much broader threat to the region and us".