Bush urged to focus terror fight on Afghanistan, Pakistan

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Democrats have called on President George W. Bush to refocus US counter-terror efforts to Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying that over-emphasis on Iraq has allowed Islamic extremists to regroup along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

“The negligent policies of the last half-decade have permitted al-Qaeda and the Taliban to regenerate, and to pose a greater threat to the national security of the United States than at any point since September 11, 2001,” Democratic lawmakers wrote in a letter to Bush Sunday.

“The neglect of Afghanistan and Pakistan reflects a failure to recognize this region as the central battlefield in the war against al-Qaeda.”

The letter, signed by nearly all the Democrats in the US Senate, comes two days before US commander in Iraq David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker are scheduled to testify to senators on the progress of the war in Iraq.

The letter also assailed the Bush administration’s focus on supporting Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for deteriorated relations with Pakistan’s new government.

“We urge you to embark on a new relationship with Pakistan based on cooperation with institutions rather than individuals, and to support the will of the Pakistani people as expressed in the February 18 parliamentary elections,” it said.

It also linked the “unfulfilled promise” of a reconstruction plan for Afghanistan to the revival of warlordism and the resurgence of the opium poppy crop in the country.

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