Mike Klein Online

NATO Top Diplomat in Atlanta: Washington and Pakistan Need Each Other

Mike Klein

Pakistan’s prime minister uttered menacing words toward Washington on Monday as diplomatic nerves continue to fray after American troops took out Osama bin Laden.  But thousands of miles away in Atlanta, the NATO Secretary General was equally forceful in saying that success in that part of the world means Washington and Pakistan need each other.

“Osama bin Laden apparently has been hiding in Pakistan for quite some years.  That fact raises a lot of questions,” NATO’s Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.  “My bottom line is that we need strong cooperation from Pakistan.  If we are to ensure long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan and beyond, then we need the positive engagement of Pakistan.”

Rasmussen noted that he spoke with President Barack Obama after the military strike that took out the al Qaeda terrorist.  “Osama bin Laden stood against all the values that America and Europe have shared and upheld for many decades, freedom, tolerance and humanity.”

NATO’s Secretary General also brought this observation to Atlanta:  “Over the past few months brave people throughout the Arab world have cried out for freedom, freedom that we have enjoyed for many decades, not least thanks to NATO.  Change is taking hold in the Middle East and North Africa but Libya is an exception. Colonel (Moammar) Gadhafi and his regime are repressing their people who have expressed the desire for freedom.”

Rasmussen made Atlanta the second of four cities on a whirlwind getting-to-know-you better tour that began in Washington, D.C. this past weekend, continues in Austin, Texas on Tuesday, and then moves to Chicago before the Secretary General returns to Washington later this week.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (NATO Photo)

“My bottom line is, there is no alternative to a positive engagement with Pakistan,” the former two-term Prime Minister of Denmark told 200 World Affairs Council of Atlanta guests at The Commerce Club.   “We should support those forces in Pakistan that realize the real threats against the Pakistani society come from terrorists and extremists.”

Pakistan is feeling emotionally tattooed after Americans parachuted under the cover of night into Abbottabad, landed in bin Laden’s compound, easily killed him and then flew away with his shot-up body and an enormous cache of intelligence that U.S. officials believe will be invaluable in the effort to find and kill or capture more terrorists.

Pakistan reacted with bewilderment, dismay and embarrassment last week. Then on Monday, a defiant Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told his Parliament that bin Laden’s death was “justice done” but he also warned Washington, “Unilateralism runs the inherent risk of serious consequences.”

U.S. officials now believe intelligence taken from bin Laden’s compound proves the terrorist was still engaged at high levels within al Qaeda, which has long been tied to Afghanistan’s Taliban.

Rasmussen said Taliban insurgents are at a crossroads. “Continued fighting will lead to Taliban defeat.  So, time has come for the Taliban to cut links with al Qaeda.  Extremism has no future.  Cut links with al Qaeda, renounce violence, engage in the political process, help rebuilding the Afghan society.”

Rasmussen seemed publicly less concerned about growing political pressure that bin Laden’s death means the United States should downsize its costly military commitment in Afghanistan.

“International terrorism still poses a direct threat to our security and stability across the world.”  Afghanistan, Rasmussen said, “has been ravaged by over 30 years of conflict.  We have the right strategy, the right resources and the resolve to see this through.  We will continue our mission to ensure that Afghanistan does not return to being a sanctuary for extremists and terrorists.”

Rasmussen has several times publicly stated that Libyan dictator Colonel Moammar Gadhafi must go.  “There is no military solution solely to the problems in Libya.  And, it’s hard to imagine that attacks against the civilian population would stop as long as Gadhafi remains in power.”

NATO assumed command of multi-national forces aligned against Libya five weeks ago.  “Consider this: What if we had stood by and watched as Gadhafi’s regime killed innocent civilians in Benghazi?  What would that have said about our values?” Rasmussen asked.

NATO has flown 5,500 sorties against Libyan government forces.  “We have significantly downgraded Gadhafi’s war machine. The clear message is, Gadhafi, it’s time to leave.  Your time is out.  There is no future for you and your regime.”

Rasmussen arrived in the United States on Saturday.  He visited wounded service personnel at the U.S. military hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.  The NATO Secretary General is also making time to meet with Georgia and Texas National Guard troops. “I am grateful for their service and for their sacrifice.”

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

May 9, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

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