Despite repeated Obama administration claims in public that
Pakistan is working hard to crack down on militants, a private White House
review uses unusually tough language to suggest the ally is not doing nearly
enough to confront the Taliban and al Qaeda, according to a copy of the report
to Congress obtained by CNN.
The report notes that from March to June, the Pakistani military
"continued to avoid military engagements that would put it in direct conflict
with Afghan Taliban or [al Qaeda] forces in North Waziristan. This is as much a
political choice as it is a reflection of an under-resourced military
prioritizing its targets."
The report notes bluntly that despite having a presence of 140,000
military and paramilitary personnel, the Pakistani military has been
"nonetheless constrained to disrupting and displacing extremist groups without
making lasting gains against the insurgency."
The White House assessment is particularly tough on Pakistan's inability
to make gains in South Waziristan, where many analysts believe key al Qaeda
leaders have gained a safe haven to use as a base to plot terror attacks
against Western targets.
"In South Waziristan, the Pakistan military continued to conduct
small-scale operations against those militants who did not flee in late 2009,"
the report says. "But the military largely stayed close to the roads and did
not engage against those TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban) militants who returned after
fleeing into North Waziristan."
The report also alludes to the repetitive nature of the country making
brief progress, only to fall back down, noting that Pakistani military forces
recently disrupted insurgent networks in the north. "It is notable that some of
these areas had been previously cleared on numerous occasions," it says.
While the report to Congress has not been publicly released by the White
House, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs tried to downplay the tough language by
telling reporters, "I don't think this comes as a surprise" that the assessment
"finds some challenges" in getting Pakistan to crack down on militants.
"But at the same time we see progress," said Gibbs. "Pakistani troops
have sacrificed thousands to take on terror. ... They are addressing and
dealing with the threat."
In fact, Gibbs and other Obama officials, such as Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton, were fairly upbeat about their assessments of Pakistan's
efforts earlier this year, though they have gotten tougher in recent days.
"I have to stand up for the efforts the Pakistani government is taking,"
Clinton said on CBS's "60 Minutes" back in May. "They have done a very
significant move toward going after the terrorists within their own country."
The new tough line from the White House in the report to Congress comes
as the president faces increasing pressure from fellow Democrats to get tough
with Pakistan. Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin suggested in a speech
last week that the Pakistani government is selective in its crackdowns.
"They have gone after some terrorist targets inside Pakistan but the ones
they go after are the ones that threaten the Pakistan government," Levin said.
Jennifer Kohl, a spokeswoman for the House Armed Services Committee,
added that the new White House assessment shows much more progress is needed
"Our relationship with Pakistan is one of the most critical when it comes
to our national security and our efforts in Afghanistan," Kohl said. "The
report demonstrates that while we've undoubtedly come a long way with Pakistan,
we still have a long way to go. It highlights the need for us to continue to
work with the Pakistani military to build their capacity to take on terrorist
groups operating in Pakistan, many of which pose a direct threat to the U.S."
The report is also extremely tough on Pakistan's human rights record.
"Over 1.5 million people are still displaced from Pakistani military
operations to combat insurgents in the northwest; and there was a lack of
progress on improvements in human rights," says the report. "Reports of gross
violations of human rights continued. There was some evidence that the
Pakistani military has made initial efforts to stop these abuses. However,
despite U.S. engagement on the issue, reports of ongoing abuses continue to
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