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U.S. Needs Pakistan's Help Finding Hiding Militants


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.



And I'm Renee Montagne. We'll report next on the U.S. plan to fight militants in Pakistan. President Obama's team, including General David Petraeus and envoy Richard Holbrooke, say that country is the key to their strategy for neighboring Afghanistan. So they've named the problem, though the plan to deal with it is still evolving. Here's NPR's Mary Louise Kelly.

MARY LOUISE KELLY: Still, as head of the Pakistani Taliban, Mehsud is making a name for himself in terrorist circles. He claimed responsibility for Monday's deadly attack on a police station in Lahore, Pakistan. Then he threatened to attack Washington, specifically the White House. That got the attention yesterday of Republican Senator John McCain at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

JOHN MCCAIN: An individual who's a, I understand, a young Taliban leader named Mehsud, is that correct?

DAVID PETRAEUS: Baitullah Mehsud, Pakistani Taliban leader.

LOUISE KELLY: That's General David Petraeus answering. He's the head of U.S. Central Command. Petraeus told McCain he'd just been talking to the National Security Council about Mehsud and his threats on Washington.


PETRAEUS: We are doing what is - the intelligence circles call it a deep dive to determine the possibility of that, if you will. There are some questions about capacity of that organization in terms of transnational activities.

LOUISE KELLY: On this program this week, we asked Ambassador Holbrooke how confident he is about Pakistan's commitment to root out those extremists along the Afghan border. Holbrooke said he'd just raised the matter with Pakistan's foreign minister and the head of its spy service, the ISI.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: And we went right to the heart of it. And General Pasha and Minister Qureshi just said, look, we know that some people don't think we're serious. But we are serious. And our response was, well, the proof is in the pudding. We need to work together for practical results.

LOUISE KELLY: The way to do that, General Petraeus says, is to convince the Pakistanis that al-Qaida, the Taliban and other militant groups pose a direct threat to the future of their country.

PETRAEUS: The extremist threat inside Pakistan is indeed the existential threat, the most important existential threat to that country. We believe more than the traditional enemy of Pakistan, India.

LOUISE KELLY: But some, including Democrat Carl Levin, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, are not convinced. Senator Levin told yesterday's hearing that he doubts whether Pakistan is really onboard with U.S. efforts.

CARL LEVIN: I remain skeptical that Pakistan has either the will or the capability to secure their border, particularly between Baluchistan and southern Afghanistan.

LOUISE KELLY: Mary Louise Kelly, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.