White House Faults Pakistan's Battle Against Militants
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
Now to that unusually frank assessment that was sent to members of Congress. In it, the White House says Pakistan's government has refused to wage an aggressive battle against militants in its northwest tribal areas.
NPR's Scott Horsley has that story.
SCOTT HORSLEY: The National Security Council's assessment says it's not just a shortage of troops or money that have kept the Pakistani army from going after the militants. It says Pakistan has made a political choice not to engage al- Qaida or related militant groups operating out of North Waziristan.
Defense analyst Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution says that assessment, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, is an unusually blunt response to Pakistan's typical argument that it's simply stretched too thin.
MICHAEL O: The talking point of the Pakistani government is we're doing all we can, this is sort of your war that we're helping with. This is a statement, a deliberate, careful statement by the U.S. government that it doesn't fully buy the Pakistani talking points.
HORSLEY: O'Hanlon says that's no surprise to people who've been paying close attention to the fighting in the region. But it is remarkable to see the U.S. reservations put in writing in an unclassified report.
At the White House today, spokesman Robert Gibbs said only the U.S. has seen progress in Pakistan's willingness to go after militants who threaten America's safety and its own.
O'Hanlon says one reason Pakistan might be reluctant to confront the militants is because it's still uncertain of the U.S. commitment in the region. Mr. Obama wants to start withdrawing U.S. troops from neighboring Afghanistan next summer.
HANLON: As long as there's the worry about the United States not finishing the job in Afghanistan, the Pakistani hedging behavior is more easily understood and, frankly, harder to challenge or transform.
HORSLEY: The White House assessment was attached to a letter that President Obama sent to congressional leaders last week. In it, he said he had no plans for major changes in his Afghan war strategy.
Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.
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