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Clinton urges Pakistan to implement reforms

(AP) / 19 February 2011

NEW YORK — Amid an escalating diplomatic dispute, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that Pakistan risks major instability at home and a hampered war effort in next-door Afghanistan if it doesn’t implement reforms and stop fomenting anti-American sentiment.

In a speech Friday to The Asia Society, Clinton said Pakistani cooperation is critical to the success of the fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda extremists in neighboring Afghanistan.

She spoke amid increasing tensions with Pakistan over the killing of two Pakistanis by an American Embassy worker. Without mentioning the case, Clinton acknowledged the US-Pakistan relationship is troubled.

“Distrust lingers on both sides,” Clinton said. “We need to work together carefully to prevent misunderstandings and disagreements from derailing the progress we have made in the past two years.”

Relations with Pakistan have plummeted to their lowest point in recent years since the arrest of an American embassy employee in Lahore. The employee, Raymond Allen Davis, shot and killed two Pakistani men he says were trying to rob him on Jan. 27.

The U.S. insists that Davis was acting in self-defense and qualifies for diplomatic immunity because he worked for the embassy. US officials are demanding Davis be released immediately.

Pakistani authorities have refused thus far to release Davis and have questioned his immunity status.

Clinton said Pakistan’s public finances are in disarray and that energy shortages are hampering economic growth and causing political instability there.

“Shocking, unjustified anti-Americanism will not resolve these problems,” she said.

Pakistan has a responsibility to ensure that the Afghan Taliban cannot continue to conduct the insurgency from Pakistan’s territory, Clinton said.

“Pressure from the Pakistani side will help push the Taliban toward the negotiating table and away from al-Qaida,” she said.

Clinton issued a warning to the Taliban and other extremists in Afghanistan that they must choose between war and peace as the U.S. increases military pressure on them.

Clinton said reconciliation is the only way to ensure Afghanistan’s lasting stability and challenge extremists to abandon al-Qaida and to align themselves with the government for the good of the country and their own safety.

“They cannot wait us out,” Clinton said. “They cannot defeat us. And they cannot escape this choice.”

The U.S. has increased military pressure on extremists and says it has the Taliban on the run in key areas of the country. Heavy fighting is expected this spring, along with a continued heavy reliance on unmanned drone attacks and secret ground raids targeting militant leaders along the Pakistan border.

“The escalating pressure of our military campaign is sharpening a similar decision for the Taliban: break ties with al-Qaida, give up your arms, and abide by the Afghan Constitution and you can rejoin Afghan society,” Clinton says. “Refuse and you will continue to face the consequences of being tied to al-Qaeda as an enemy of the international community.”

The United States plans to begin withdrawing troops from the country this summer, and President Barack Obama has promised that the US combat role will end in 2014.

The administration will begin assessing conditions for possible troop drawdowns next month as it determines where Afghan security forces can take the lead. The top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, said last week that intelligence reports indicate Taliban leaders are worried and that there is “friction and discord” between the guerrillas in the field and their leadership in Pakistan.

Last year’s troop surge, led by the United States, boosted the international fighting force in Afghanistan to about 150,000 troops. NATO and Afghan President Hamid Karzai hope to have more than 300,000 Afghan army and police in action by next autumn facing a much smaller organized insurgent force.

Last year was the deadliest of the nearly decade-long war for international troops, with more than 700 killed. This compares to about 500 in 2009, previously the worst year of the war. Record numbers of insurgents and civilians also have been killed.

Clinton also formally announced the appointment of retired veteran diplomat Marc Grossman to succeed the late Richard Holbrooke as the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The post had been occupied by Holbrooke’s former deputy on a temporary basis since Holbrooke’s sudden death in December.

The Davis case underscored the need for the administration to have a permanent point man to coordinate the complex relationships between Washington, Kabul and Islamabad.

Despite an urgent administration-arranged visit to Pakistan by Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, the situation remains unresolved with the Pakistani government in a tight spot.

If it releases Davis, it risks angering violent elements in its population — including the Taliban, who have threatened to attack any official involved in letting Davis go. The ruling party also risks further alienating voters already unhappy with its performance.

In Lahore on Friday, some 200 protesters associated with Jamaat-u-Dawa, a charity alleged to be a front for the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, demanded Davis be hanged.

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