Pakistani and Afghan political leaders have welcomed the Obama
administration's new strategy for stabilizing both countries. But, a
deadly suicide attack that killed at least 50 people near their shared
border demonstrated the challenges ahead.
Officials in Pakistan
and Afghanistan praised the announcement by saying they welcome a new
emphasis on a broader regional approach to the situation and new plans
for non-military aid.
In Islamabad, Pakistani Prime Minister
Yousuf Raza Gilani said new development funds should expedite projects
that will help win over people's hearts and minds. He also specifically
addressed Pakistanis living in the country's Taliban-dominated tribal
regions, saying they too can benefit from the plan.
our tribal brothers will fully cooperate because they are patriotic
Pakistanis and we don't doubt their loyalty," he said. "A small
minority are bent on destroying Pakistan's peace."
earlier, a suicide bombing in the tribal region struck a crowded mosque
along one of the main roads to Afghanistan. An official in Khyber
agency said some 250 people had gathered for Friday prayers, when the
bomber triggered a massive blast that devastated the mosque.
said as soon as the cleric signaled the time to pray by saying God is
great, the suicide bomber blew himself up and that the crowd included
local security forces and some travelers.
The blast is the deadliest attack in Pakistan this year.
Obama's announcement specifically addressed the need to root out
al-Qaida terrorists and other militants based in the tribal region.
Attacks in Afghanistan that are believed to originate from groups based
in Pakistani territory have long been a source of contention between
the two countries.
Afghan presidential spokesman Humayun
Hamidzada said the Obama administration plan reflects key points of
view of the Afghan government, particularly as it concerns the tribal
"We are very pleased that the strategy recognizes the
threat of al-Qaida emanating from Pakistan, and accordingly dealing
with it," he said.
President Obama emphasized the shared
interest that all countries have in defeating al Qaida and Taliban
militants. He said the United States' clear goal in the region is to
"disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan."
Islamabad-based defense analyst Talat Masood says the Pakistani
government has tried to convince its citizens of the same idea, but it
has largely failed.
"The problem remains that the Pakistani
state is confused about the war on terror," he said. "There are a lot
of people in Pakistan who still maintain that this war has been imposed
on them. And the leadership has failed in a way to convince the people
that genuinely the threat is internal."
Pakistanis to the plan has been mixed. Several analysts on news talk
shows worried that President Obama's emphasis on the threats in tribal
areas and the deployment of additional U.S. troops along the border are
signs the Afghan war is widening and could further spill into Pakistani