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Apr 15, 2010
via Tales from the Trail

Holbrooke hits the airwaves in new push

Photo

When President Barack Obama snuck into Afghanistan unannounced last month, a notable omission on Air Force One was his special representative for the region, veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke.

Leaving out the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan on Obama’s very first trip to Kabul as president raised a few eyebrows.

Apr 14, 2010
via Tales from the Trail

Three U.S. lawmakers sponsor Afghan pullout plan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Three U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation on Wednesday that would require President Barack Obama to develop a detailed timetable to draw down U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

While the legislation has a very slim chance of passing Congress, it underscores impatience over the eight-year war in Afghanistan, where the United States has more than 80,000 troops and tens of thousands more on the way.

Apr 14, 2010
via Tales from the Trail

India says no talks with Pakistan until it acts

WASHINGTON, April 13 (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday ruled out serious discussions with Pakistan until it took "credible steps" to bring the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks to justice.

Singh said he had exchanged pleasantries twice with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of a two-day nuclear security meeting in Washington, but they had not covered serious issues during their brief encounters.

"I complemented the prime minister on the passage of the constitutional amendment bill which I think makes the prime minister a more powerful personality in Pakistan’s political system. But beyond that there was no serious discussion," Singh told reporters.

New Delhi has complained repeatedly about the activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based militant group responsible for the Mumbai attacks which killed 166 people.

"We would like Pakistan to at least bring all of these perpetrators of these horrible crimes to book and do so effectively," said Singh.

"That’s the minimum that we expect from Pakistan," he added. "If Pakistan does that, we will be very happy to begin talking once again about all of these issues."

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Gilani refuted India’s claims, telling reporters Islamabad had banned Lashkar-e-Taiba and frozen its bank accounts.

Gilani argued that India needed to provide more evidence, to which Singh shot back that senior members of Lashkar-e-Taiba were "roaming around freely" in Pakistan and U.S. intelligence had pointed out its ties to al Qaeda.

"I don’t see there is any need for me to provide any additional evidence to Prime Minister Gilani on this."

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence from British rule in 1947, and launched a tentative peace process in early 2004.

India suspended those talks after the Mumbai attacks and senior diplomats held their first official dialogue last month, although no breakthrough emerged.

India has also had tensions with Washington over access to David Headley, the Chicago man who admitted in a U.S. court last month that he scouted targets for the Mumbai attacks.

"I raised that matter to the president (Barack Obama) and he did mention to me that he is aware of the legal position and that we will get access to David Headley," said Singh.

Pakistani pressure on the Obama administration to open up talks on a civilian nuclear deal, much like the one India has with the United States, has also irked New Delhi.

Asked to comment on Pakistan’s wish for a nuclear deal, Singh would not be drawn on the issue.

"Who am I to interfere with what goes on between Pakistan and the United States?" he said.

Washington, for its part, has been dubious about even having talks about a nuclear deal, largely due to concerns over the case of a Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who transferred nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iraq and Iran.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)





Apr 12, 2010

Pakistan seeks U.S. help to ease India tensions

WASHINGTON, April 12 (Reuters) – Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani urged Washington on Monday to help ease tensions with India but said there were no plans for the rivals to meet on the sidelines of a nuclear summit.

Gilani said U.S. President Barack Obama raised Pakistani-India tensions during their White House meeting on Sunday. Obama met separately with India’s prime minister on the same day.

"President Obama discussed with me that he really wants … good relations (between India and Pakistan) and certainly it is in everybody’s interests to play a role, whatever they can play, to bring Pakistan and India closer," Gilani said.

Pressed on whether Obama offered specific help on issues such as resolving the dispute over Kashmir, Gilani told reporters this was not discussed.

Asked whether he would meet India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh while both men are in Washington for a summit on nuclear security, Gilani replied: "It is not scheduled at the moment."

Indian officials said Singh gave Obama a list of concerns about Pakistan during their Sunday meeting, particularly over the activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based militant group responsible for the Mumbai attacks.

New Delhi complains Pakistan has not reined in the group or punished those responsible for the November 2008 attacks on India’s financial capital.

MUMBAI ATTACKERS

Asked about India’s complaints, Gilani said Pakistan did not want its soil to be used by militant groups and Islamabad had banned Lashkar-e-Taiba and frozen their bank accounts.

But he said Pakistan needed more evidence from India over the group. "If there is more information they will be brought to justice," he added.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence from British rule in 1947 and launched a tentative peace process in early 2004.

India suspended those talks after the Mumbai attacks and senior diplomats held their first official dialogue last month, although no breakthrough emerged.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said India needed to "look beyond Mumbai."

"Mumbai was sad, Mumbai was tragic and should not have happened. But we are as much victims of terrorism as Indians are," Qureshi told reporters after Gilani’s media lunch.

Asked what role Washington could play in the peace process, he said: "To nudge us together and to facilitate the process."

Qureshi said the United States — which has more than 80,000 troops in Afghanistan — would benefit from improved ties between India and Pakistan as Islamabad could shift its focus from its eastern border.

"The more ease we have on the eastern front, the better equipped we are to deal with the western front (Afghanistan)," said Qureshi.

Gilani repeated a plea for Pakistani access to civilian nuclear technology, an irritant in U.S.-Pakistani ties as New Delhi has its own nuclear deal with Washington.

"We believe that the objectives of nuclear nonproliferation would be better served if the policy of nondiscrimination is adopted across the globe for peaceful uses of nuclear energy," Gilani said.

Pakistan is suffering from a energy crisis, with daily power cuts weighing both on the economy and public patience.

Washington has been dubious about even having talks about a nuclear deal, largely due to concerns over the case of a Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who transferred nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iraq and Iran.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)




Apr 9, 2010

U.S. faults independence of Afghan audit office

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s lead audit body lacks the independence needed to track billions of dollars in public and foreign funds while President Hamid Karzai’s office actively meddles, a U.S. report said on Friday.

The Obama administration sees pervasive corruption as a big threat to stabilizing Afghanistan and insists that Karzai should tackle graft in his second term.

Apr 7, 2010

Divorce not in cards for U.S. and Karzai

WASHINGTON/KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Obama administration have traded public insults in recent days, reflecting a relationship that was tense from the start.

But with more than 85,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and President Barack Obama relying on a counter-insurgency strategy to turn around the eight-year war, divorce is not an option.

Apr 6, 2010

U.S. suggests Karzai meeting with Obama in jeopardy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States suggested on Tuesday it might cancel a meeting between President Barack Obama and President Hamid Karzai in the White House next month if the Afghan leader persisted with anti-Western comments.

Intensifying tensions between the two nations, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that a series of critical comments by Karzai was “troubling” and “confusing”.

Apr 5, 2010

U.S. faces domestic fallout from Karzai outburst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Irritated by Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s anti-Western outbursts, the Obama administration is expecting some fallout in the U.S. Congress and further erosion of public support for the war.

With congressional elections looming in November, many from President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party see a fight at the polls not only on economic issues but also on whether the war in Afghanistan is worth it. Karzai’s tone may weigh on that.

Mar 25, 2010

U.S. promises greater market access to Pakistan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration promised on Thursday to work for greater U.S. market access for Pakistani goods and said it would push Congress to take up stalled legislation that would offer some trade advantages.

But any arrangement would fall far short of a free-trade agreement that Pakistan wants, with a senior U.S. official saying such a deal was not on the table.

Mar 25, 2010

Pakistan satisfied with U.S. nuclear talks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Pakistan’s foreign minister said on Thursday his team had “very satisfactory” talks with Washington on civilian nuclear cooperation but a senior U.S. official played down prospects of a deal.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan is pressing for a nuclear cooperation arrangement similar to one its key rival India has with the United States but Washington has been reluctant to enter into any formal talks on the issue.

    • About Sue

      "Sue Pleming covers foreign policy, with a focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan. She joined Reuters in London in 1990 and was based in Brussels before moving to Washington, where her most recent post was covering the State Department. She started her journalism career in southern Africa and has also done reporting stints in Somalia, Rwanda and Burundi."
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