WASHINGTON (AFP) - Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama warned Wednesday that if elected president he would be ready to order military strikes against Al-Qaeda in Pakistan, even if Islamabad objects.
In a major speech laying out his anti-terrorism strategy, the Illinois senator also proposed one billion dollars in extra non-military aid for Afghanistan, and accused President George W. Bush of botching the war on terror.
Obama responded to US intelligence reports that Al-Qaeda has regrouped in remote Pakistani tribal areas in a bold speech seen as an bid to bolster his foreign policy credentials and debunk claims he is too inexperienced to be president.
"I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges," Obama said in excerpts from the speech released by his 2008 presidential campaign.
"But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans ... if we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will."
The Bush administration last week attempted to smoothe a row with Pakistan over intelligence reports suggesting an Al-Qaeda resurgence in wild lawless areas over which the Islamabad government has little control.
Senior State Department official Nicholas Burns told a Senate committee the administration retained the option of targeting Osama bin Laden's terror group in the region but was also keen to respect Pakistani sovereignty.
Pakistan had earlier reacted angrily to threats of action against the targets, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam saying any such action would be "unacceptable," counterproductive and fan public anger.
Obama also said he would make hundreds of millions of dollars in US military aid to Pakistan conditional on Pakistan acting against closing down Al-Qaeda camps, evicting foreign fighters and halting Taliban efforts to use Pakistan as a staging area for assaults in Afghanistan.
He bemoaned a "terrible mistake" by the Bush administration to "fail to act" when it reportedly had a chance to take out an Al-Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005.
His comment appeared to be a reference to a secret military plan to kill Al-Qaeda leaders including bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The New York Times has reported the mission was halted partly due to fears of harming US ties with Pakistan.
Obama also pledged to deploy at least two extra US brigades to Afghanistan to reinforce counter-terrorism operations and bolster NATO's fight against the Taliban.
"The solution in Afghanistan is not just military," Obama said, according to the excerpts. "It is political and economic. As President, I would increase our non-military aid by one billion dollars." Obama warns he would attack Al-Qaeda in Pakistan - Yahoo! News