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Two Weeks in Islamabad, Or Not

State Department spokesman Robert Wood got asked today whether the Obama administration fears for the viability of the Pakistani government. Enjoy:

QUESTION: In Pakistan, the military is taking action against the Taliban. Has the U.S. asked Pakistan to take action against – within the two – next two weeks, as reported in the U.S. media?

**MR. WOOD: **I don’t know where this two-week timeframe came from. But look, we have said very clearly that we believe the Pakistanis need to take action against these extremist elements. And clearly, the Pakistanis are, you know, trying to do that. We’re going to be working with them, providing assistance where we can, as well as other countries around the world who believe that it’s critical to international security that we deal with the Taliban, and those extremists that are operating not only in Pakistan, but in Afghanistan as well. So obviously, Pakistan is doing this out of its own – in its own national security interests.

And as I said, we will be there to help them, but it is important that they not let extremists – let me put it this way, it’s important that these extremists be dealt with. And we’re going to continue, as I said, to work with them and others. And this has been, I think, a positive last couple of days in terms of Pakistan taking action against these militants. And so – but we’re under no illusions. It’s going to take more than two days worth of actions. It’s going to take consistent, determined, and forceful action. And Pakistan seems committed to that, and we’re willing to be as helpful as we can in terms of dealing with the militants.

Although not really about giving Pakistan a deadline to “take action” against the Taliban, the two-weeks-until-all-hell-breaks-loose narrative came from a Fox News thing I posted about earlier. My sense from calling around the administration today is that officials don’t really think there is in fact a timeline here, but that the needle for the Zardari government’s viability is in the red — not necessarily from a military coup and not necessarily from a Taliban takeover, but from a variety of spiraling social and political crises that are increasingly and rapidly compounding. More on this later. When the Pakistanis come to town next week it’s going to be a very tense series of meetings.

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