Pakistanis Expecting Policy Changes from Obama Administration

In Pakistan and Afghanistan, many people believe the region will remain a key American foreign policy priority for the incoming Obama administration, but they are expecting some significant changes from current U.S. policies. President Obama faces daunting challenges there, not only from a resurgent Taliban but also from the two nations' U.S.-backed governments that appear increasingly weak.

In Afghanistan, where more than seven years of war have failed to defeat the Taliban or build a strong central government, many Afghans worry that the United States lacks a clear plan for stabilizing the country.

In Pakistan, there is widespread opposition to U.S. counterterrorism tactics that many people believe have worsened militancy and violence in recent years.

Pakistani leaders say they are expecting changes in U.S. policies - particularly an end to covert U.S. missile strikes against suspected Taliban and al Qaida leaders based near the Afghan border.  

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani says he expects more intelligence sharing from the Obama administration and a halt to unilateral airstrikes.

"They are in the transition and with the change in the new government I think there will be a change of policy," Mr. Gilani said.

Mr. Obama criticized the Bush administration's handling of the war in Afghanistan as well as some of its more controversial counterterrorism policies such as the Guantanamo Bay prison.

That criticism was welcomed in Pakistan, but there are still many Pakistanis who remain skeptical of long-term U.S. objectives in the region.

More recently, Pakistan's struggle against the Taliban has been overshadowed by strained relations with India.

During his campaign, Mr. Obama had pledged to focus on resolving Pakistan and India's long-running Kashmir dispute so that the Pakistani government could focus on counterterrorism.

But November's Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed more than 170 people have inflamed tensions with New Delhi, undermining efforts to resolve the territorial dispute.

The situation has added to the already daunting list of challenges in Pakistan - where the people and government remain weary of significant U.S. intervention.

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