- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 18, 2010

 

President Obama has sent his top national security advisers to Pakistan to reiterate to the government in Islamabad the importance of cracking down on terrorists in the wake of the Times Square car-bomb attempt.

In meetings with senior Pakistani officials on Wednesday, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta and National Security Advisor James L. Jones are expected to discuss the ongoing investigation into the New York plot.

Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistan-born American, was arrested in connection with the plot and his suspected links to Pakistan’s Taliban are being investigated. Mr. Jones and Mr. Panetta will meet with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, and Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

“In light of the failed Times Square terrorist attack and other terrorist attacks that trace to the border region, we believe that it is time to redouble our efforts with our allies in Pakistan to close this safe haven and create an environment where we and the Pakistani people can lead safe and productive lives,” National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said.

Mr. Hammer said Mr. Jones and Mr. Panetta’s visit would “focus on these critical security issues and will also be an opportunity to engage with [their] counterparts on the progress that is being made within the 13 Working Groups that were established after the March meeting of the Strategic Dialogue in Washington.”

Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership traveled to Washington in March for a high-level engagement with the Obama administration.

“Panetta has cultivated a sound relationship with the Pakistanis, building bridges in key areas — especially counterterrorism. It’s important the Pakistanis hear our latest thinking on the common threat we face from the tribal areas,” a U.S. official said on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the subject.

Senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, have said there were obvious links between Mr. Shahzad and the Pakistani Taliban.

Noting that Pakistan is taking “aggressive action” against the Taliban through its operations in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the Obama administration is “very satisfied with the cooperation we’re getting on this particular investigation thus far. And I think we’re confident that Pakistan understands the — how seriously we take this particular episode.”