Updated at: 0945 PST, Thursday, March 19, 2009
WASHINGTON: British Defense Minister John Hutton said that top goals for the military effort in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the next three to five years should include attacking the command-and-control structure of al-Qaeda and other extremist groups in Pakistan as well as stemming the flow of insurgents across the border into Afghanistan. "The Taliban and al-Qaeda have got to know there is no safe haven," Hutton said in an interview with reporters at the British Embassy in Washington. Pakistan's military needs more help developing capabilities in intelligence-gathering, thwarting roadside bombs and building counterinsurgency efforts, Hutton said before a meeting with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. Taliban fighters and insurgents coming from Pakistan are focusing their attacks in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand, where nearly 9,000 British troops are deployed, Hutton said. The result has been a stalemate in Helmand, he said, adding "a stalemate is not good enough."