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Pakistani President: Don’t Expect Us to Go Into North Waziristan Any Time Soon

As I report in my piece on Pakistan this morning, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke is taking pains to avoid “demand[ing] a sovereign country,” say, go after the Afghan Taliban in Baluchistan or al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network in North Waziristan. The Obama administration believes that would be counterproductive. Instead, the Pakistanis need to see a deep U.S. commitment to helping Pakistan solve its economic, diplomatic and security problems and then they’ll be open to such painful, bloody measures. All in due time, administration officials counsel.

Due time is apparently a long time. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari sent a letter to President Obama, the Washington Post reports, making that clear:

In a written response to a letter from Obama late last month, Zardari said his government was determined to take action against al-Qaeda, the Taliban and allied insurgent groups attacking U.S. forces in Afghanistan from the border area inside Pakistan. But, he said, Pakistan’s efforts would be based on its own timeline and operational needs.

The message was reinforced Monday by Pakistan’s military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, who told Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of the U.S. Central Command, that the United States should not expect “a major operation in North Waziristan” in the coming months, according to a senior U.S. defense official. North Waziristan, one of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas on the Afghan border, is a sanctuary for the Afghan Taliban.

Holbrooke said last night he was committed to bolstering a bipartisan consensus for the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. He also said, as I reported, that he thinks Congress should appropriate more aid to Pakistan. But will Congress really be so inclined to dole out cash in the middle of a recession to a country that, as evidenced by four grueling hearings last week, is seen on the Hill as intransigent or worse?

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