Excerpts from the US President's news-conference
With respect to Pakistan, I have said that my number-one goal is to make sure that al Qaeda cannot attack the U.S. homeland and cannot affect U.S. interests around the world. And we have done an outstanding job, I think, in going after, directly, al Qaeda in this border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. We could not have been as successful as we have been without the cooperation of the Pakistan government. And so, on a whole range of issues they have been an effective partner with us.
What is also true is that our goal of being able to transition out of Afghanistan and leave a stable government behind -- one that is independent, one that is respectful of human rights, one that is democratic -- that Pakistan, I think, has been more ambivalent about some of our goals there. And I think that they have hedged their bets, in terms of what Afghanistan would look like. And part of hedging their bets is having interactions with some of the unsavoury characters who they think might end up regaining power in Afghanistan after coalition forces have left.
What we’ve tried to persuade Pakistan of is that it is in their interest to have a stable Afghanistan; that they should not be feeling threatened by a stable, independent Afghanistan. We’ve tried to get conversations between Afghans and Pakistanis going more effectively than they have been in the past, but we’ve still got more work to do. And there is no doubt that there is some connections that the Pakistani military and intelligence services have with certain individuals that we find troubling. And I’ve said that publicly, and I’ve said it privately to Pakistani officials as well.
They see their security interests threatened by an independent Afghanistan in part because they think it will ally itself to India, and Pakistan still considers India their mortal enemy. Part of what we want to do is actually get Pakistan to realize that a peaceful approach towards India would be in everybody’s interests, and would help Pakistan actually develop, because one of the biggest problems we have in Pakistan right now is poverty, illiteracy, a lack of development, civil institutions that aren’t strong enough to deliver for the Pakistani people. And in that environment you’ve seen extremism grow. You’ve seen militancy grow that doesn’t just threaten our efforts in Afghanistan but also threatens the Pakistani government and the Pakistani people as well. So trying to get that reorientation is something that we’re continuing to work on; it’s not easy.
We will constantly evaluate our relationship with Pakistan based on, is, overall, this helping to protect Americans and our interests. We have a great desire to help the Pakistani people strengthen their own society and their own government. And so I’d be hesitant to punish aid for flood victims in Pakistan because of poor decisions by their intelligence services. But there is no doubt that we’re not going to feel comfortable with a long-term strategic relationship with Pakistan if we don’t think that they’re mindful of our interest as well.
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