WASHINGTON (RPRN) 5/06/09–U.S. President Barack Obama will meet Wednesday with the presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan in what U.S. officials call an effort to get them to work more closely together to fight extremist insurgents.
Mr. Obama is due to meet separately at the White House with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, and then the three leaders will hold joint talks.
On Tuesday, ahead of the meeting, Mr. Zardari said his government is safe and the country’s nuclear arsenal is in secure hands.
Mr. Zardari told a U.S. television network Tuesday that the Taliban insurgency does not pose a threat to his government, only to his security. He called it another chapter in the country’s long-running tribal and ethnic conflicts.
President Karzai, meanwhile, has expressed concern about civilian casualties in U.S.-led military strikes in Afghanistan.
Earlier Tuesday, the special U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, said Washington does not believe Pakistan is a “failed state” even though it is dealing with enormous social, political and economic pressures.
Holbrooke told the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that Taliban advances have sparked a sense of panic in Pakistan and the United States, but that Washington is committed to supporting and stabilizing Islamabad.
The veteran diplomat appealed to Congress to approve pending legislation to provide Pakistan with billions of dollars in military and non-military aid.
That proposed bill would give military aid, military education training and hundreds of millions of dollars to strengthen Pakistan’s democratic institutions, judiciary, law enforcement agencies and the educational system.
Holbrooke also dismissed media reports suggesting the Obama administration is distancing itself from the Zardari government in favor of political rival and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.