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The Daily Times

'Obama Targeted Pakistan To Get Boost In Polls'


LAHORE: Barack Obama was trying to give a boost to his poll ratings when he declared on Wednesday that he was prepared to unilaterally send US troops into Pakistan to get terrorists, states Pramit Pal Chaudhuri of the Hindustan Times.

Chaudhuri says Obama was not trying to warn President General Pervez Musharraf, but was instead attempting to impress the US public with his firm stance on an issue of war.0805 02

In his speech, Obama argued he would withdraw US soldiers from Iraq, but increase their numbers in Afghanistan. He also alleged that Musharraf hadn't done enough in the fight against Al Qaeda. This appeared to be in direct response to a poll by American Research Group that showed Clinton had a 21-point lead over Obama after he said he was prepared to "unconditionally" meet leaders like Iran's Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and North Korea's Kim Jong-Il.

According to Chaudhuri, taking a firm stance on Pakistan is useful to Obama for three reasons: First, it allows the senator to show himself to be "hard-nosed on security" while portraying him as different from the mainstream. He says irrespective of ideological persuasion, almost all US citizens would disrespect a US president who would let another government veto an attack on Osama Bin Laden. "Obama's position is actually the same as President George W Bush," points out Ashley Tellis, senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "US homeland security advisor, Frances Townsend, said exactly this." However, publicly the Bush administration has had to say it would not violate Pakistani "sovereignty".

Second, Pakistan is an easy target after growing concerns in Washington following the revival of Al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas. "You are likely to see many more statements across the political spectrum focusing on the situation in this remote part of northwest Pakistan," says Lisa Curtis, South Asia expert at the Heritage Foundation.

Third, the speech still allows Obama to retain his advantage over Clinton - that of her voting in favour of the US invasion of Iraq. Obama has carefully distinguished between "the wrong war" in Iraq and "the right war" in Afghanistan. "If the Democrats insist on the US troop withdrawal from Iraq, they have to demonstrate they are as patriotic as any Republican. So Afghanistan, and now Pakistan, are the two places where a consensus is developing," says Frederic Grare, a Washington-based expert on Pakistan..

Most analysts, meanwhile, believe that Obama's speech will mark the beginning of a Democratic foreign policy debate that would go beyond calls for a troop withdrawal from Iraq, added Chaudhuri.

© 2007 The Daily Times

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