US to Press Pakistan to Close Terror's 'Safe Haven'

Washington, May 18 (IANS) The White House is dispatching national security adviser Gen. James L. Jones and CIA director Leon E. Panetta to Pakistan to push Islamabad to intensify efforts to investigate the Times Square bomb plot and take steps to close terror's "safe haven" in that country, according to the New York Times.

The two top security officials are expected to arrive in Islamabad on Tuesday in the highest-level American visit to Pakistan, it said citing administration officials, since Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistan born naturalised Pakistani immigrant, drove a crude car bomb into Times Square on May 1.

General Jones would not threaten the Pakistanis, but would convey the risks to the country's relationship with the United States if a deadly terrorist attack originated there, the Times said citing a senior administration official. He plans to prod them to take tougher steps against the Taliban and other insurgent groups, the official was quoted as saying.

The American officials and their Pakistani counterparts are expected to compare information collected by each side on the Times Square case, examine what vulnerabilities it reveals, and decide what additional military, law enforcement and intelligence-gathering actions need to be taken, the daily said.

"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," Michael A. Hammer, a National Security Council spokesman, was quoted as saying.

While General Jones's specific requests were not clear, the senior administration official cited by the Times said he might ask Pakistan's military to push harder into North Waziristan, the main base for the Pakistani Taliban, Al Qaeda and other militant groups.

Shahzad, 30, has told investigators that he trained in North Waziristan, but Pakistan has said it is still preoccupied trying to hold South Waziristan and Swat.

Among the other possible American requests, an official was quoted as saying, were more intense surveillance of suspected terrorists and allowing more American military advisers to operate in Pakistan.

The United States is also proposing to open a new consulate in Quetta, in southwestern Pakistan, where the CIA. would likely have a sizable presence.

American intelligence officials have expressed growing concern about the increasingly intertwined network of Islamic extremist groups operating in and around Pakistan's tribal areas.

The Obama administration sees the Times Square plot as a reason to push the Pakistanis to do several things it has long desired, the Times said.


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