Obama takes tough line against Pakistan

Thursday, August 2, 2007
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., finished his speech about terrorism Wednesday at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. (Charles Dharapak ~ Associated Press)

WASHINGTON -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama warned Pakistan on Wednesday that he would use military force if necessary to root out terrorists, the second time in two weeks that he's staked out a dramatically different road for U.S. foreign policy.

The Illinois senator's tough talk against Pakistan comes after he pledged to meet with leaders of rogue nations who have been rebuffed by President Bush.

And while Bush has embraced Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf as a valued ally in the war on terror, Obama said he would take a harder line. He said Musharraf must do more to shut down terrorist operations along the Afghan border or risk a U.S. military attack against the foreign fighters and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid.

"Let me make this clear," Obama said. "There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al-Qaida leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will."

Obama's stance against Pakistan comes after last week's dispute with top rival Hillary Rodham Clinton in which the New York senator accused him of being "irresponsible and naive" for saying he would meet with heads of states such as Cuba, North Korea, Syria and Iran without conditions.

This new policy is designed to show that Obama would be a tough commander in chief when times demand it, even though he opposed the Iraq war and wants to open a dialogue with foreign foes.

Obama's foreign policy ideas all have one thing in common -- they stake ground on the flip side of current U.S. policy when many voters are dissatisfied with the country's direction in the world. The first-term Illinois senator is determined to show he can give diplomacy a fresh start.

"It's time to turn the page," Obama said four times in a 45-minute speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The speech was written by Ben Rhodes, a longtime aide to Center president, Sept. 11 Commission vice chairman and former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton.

While he is rejecting Bush's approach, Obama is also trying to lump Clinton in with the administration. His speech also criticized Congress' approval of the Iraq war resolution four times.

"With that vote, Congress became co-author of a catastrophic war," Obama said. In 2002, Clinton vote for the resolution authorizing Bush to topple Saddam Hussein's regime.

Thousands of Taliban fighters are based in Pakistan's vast and jagged mountains, where they can pass into Afghanistan, train for suicide operations and find refuge from local tribesmen. Intelligence experts warn that al-Qaida could be rebuilding to mount another attack on the United States.

Analysts say U.S. military action could risk destabilizing Pakistan, breeding more militancy and undermining Musharraf. A military response also could be difficult, given Pakistan's hostile terrain and the suspicion of its warrior-minded tribesmen against uninvited outsiders.

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