(PRAGUE, May 25, 2009) In an exclusive interview, General David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, told RFE/RL that he welcomes the Pakistani military's willingness to "very aggressively prosecute the campaign" against Taliban forces in the Northwest Frontier Province. "I think that this is unique, since 9/11 certainly, and it bodes much better for Pakistan."
Virtually all the political parties are united in saying that Pakistan must oppose and confront the Taliban who do, indeed, threaten the very existence of the Pakistani state.
Petraeus also noted a change in Pakistani public opinion towards the Taliban: "The people now, really for the first time, very much oppose what the Taliban has shown itself to do," he said. "Virtually all the political parties, with a couple of exceptions, are united in saying that Pakistan must oppose and confront the Taliban and the other extremists in their country who do, indeed, threaten the very existence of the Pakistani state."
Petraeus also explained that the new "bottom-up" strategy for the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan aims to "re-establish the traditional social structures - the mullah, the Malik, the tribal elders, the religious leaders at local levels, while helping to extend the national government so that the two can connect in a productive manner." Referring to corruption problems in the Afghan government he added: "There's no question that the Afghan government needs to do a better job in terms of achieving the support of its own people."
Speaking about the wider region, Petraeus addressed what he calls "the great game" currently being played out for power and resources in Central Asia. He called on the United States, Russia, and even Iran to recognize that the threats of extremism from Pakistan and Afghanistan and the illegal narcotics trade in the region "warrant cooperation and a broad partnership rather than zero sum approaches."