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Obama's tough act makes 'ally' Pakistan wary


January 24, 2009 14:07 IST

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Two missile strikes targeting suspected terrorist hideouts inside Pakistan in the first few days of his presidency indicate that new United States President Barack Obama [Images] is going to be tough on Islamabad [Images] when it comes to the war against terror, US media reports have suggested.

This is the first tangible sign of President Obama's commitment to sustained military pressure on the terrorist groups there, even though the Pakistanis broadly oppose such unilateral US actions, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.

Throughout his election campaign, Obama maintained that his administration would not hesitate from going ahead with unilateral strikes against high value targets inside Pakistan if it had actionable intelligence, even if this was opposed by Islamabad.

In a page one report, The Washington Post said though President Asif Ali Zardari [Images] has expressed hopes of a very warm relationship with the new administration, Obama's national security team has already "telegraphed their intention to make firmer demands of Islamabad than the Bush administration".

This demand would be backed up with a threatened curtailment of the plentiful military aid that has been at the heart of US-Pakistani ties for the past three decades, it said.

"The separate strikes on two compounds, coming three hours apart and involving five missiles fired from Afghanistan-based Predator drones, were the first high-profile hostile military actions taken under Obama's four-day-old presidency," The Post said.

 When asked about such unilateral strikes, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs refused to comment on it.

"I'm not going to comment on those matters," Gibbs said on Friday.

During her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 13, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [Images] had said non-military aid to Pakistan would be made conditional upon progress of Islamabad's action towards terrorists.

In an op-ed piece in The Washington Times on Friday, Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that Pakistan is the ground zero of terrorists' threat to the United States.

Even Obama, addressing the State Department official on Thursday, said Pakistan and Afghanistan are the central front against terrorism. The Obama administration has appointed tough-taskmaster diplomat Richard Holbrooke as its Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

All this has apparently made Pakistan uneasy.

In an interview to Geo TV, Pakistan's Ambassador [Images] to the US Hussain Haqqani hoped that the Obama administration would show some patience while dealing with Pakistan.

Urging Obama to 'hear us out' Haqqani cautioned, "We will review all options if Obama does not adopt a positive policy towards us."




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