Barack Obama begins two days of talks with the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan today as his administration faces what may be its first foreign policy crisis: rising militancy in the Swat Valley that threatens to spread across the nuclear-armed nation. Obama and his team are expected to pressure Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's president, to intensify military efforts against the Taliban and reach out to political rivals to strengthen his fragile government, reports the Los Angeles Times.
"We need to put the most heavy possible pressure on our friends in Pakistan to join us in the fight against the Taliban and its allies," said Richard Holbrooke, Obama's Af-Pak envoy. Talks with Hamid Karzai may be strained; the Afghan president has distanced himself from the US ahead of an election campaign, and Obama's administration is less keen on him than the Bush team was. Nevertheless, said one official, compared to its neighbor Afghanistan "looks like Canada."