Most effective weapon against Taliban
Speaking to CNN's Christiane Amanpour at the World Economic Forum, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called on the United States to stop drone attacks against al Qaeda and Taliban fighters on Pakistani territory. "I want to put on record that we do not have any agreement between the government of the United States and the government of Pakistan," Gilani said.
Gilani's statement was in response to testimony yesterday by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Asked by senators if the missile strikes by drones would continue, Gates said both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama had made clear they would continue to pursue al Qaeda across the border into Pakistan. "Has that decision been transmitted to the Pakistan government?" asked Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"Yes, sir," Gates said.
In parallel, Asif Ali Zardari, the president of Pakistan, is urging Washington to send more money and equipment to fight extremists. In an opinion piece in today's Washington Post, he chided critics in the United States for questioning Pakistan's commitment to the war on terrorism. "With all due respect, we need no lectures on our commitment," he wrote. "This is our war. It is our children and wives who are dying."
Zardari also asked for more advanced weaponry:
To the extent that we are unable to fully execute battle plans, we urge the United States to give us necessary resources -- upgrading our equipment and providing the newest technology -- so that we can fight the terrorists proactively on our terms, not reactively on their terms. Give us the tools, and we will get the job done.
Interestingly, Zardari said that Pakistani F-16s had been used in airstrikes against Taliban and al-Qaeda. That's an interesting point: the long-delayed delivery of F-16s to Pakistan was a major sore point in relations between Islamabad and Washington, and many observers suggested Pakistan's interest in advanced weaponry had less to do with fighting extremists and more to do with arming against the old adversary, India. "Even if Pakistan were serious about fighting the Taliban, it could certainly find a better way to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars the F-16s will cost," wrote DANGER ROOM pal Joshua Kucera back in 2004. "But the Pakistanis gave a clue as to what they really want with the planes: They are requesting that the F-16s be armed with top-of-the-line air-to-air missiles that would be of little use against targets like the Islamists it's fighting on the ground."