Stakes Massive Ahead of Obama Af-Pak Summit

Zardari, Karzai in DC as Taliban surge in crumbling Pakistan

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff

Posted May 6, 2009 6:02 AM CDT

(Newser) – 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."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, flanked by House Minority Leader John Boehner and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 5, 2009.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari attends the Pakistan donors conference at a Tokyo hotel, Japan, Friday, April 17, 2009.   (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
US special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke looks on during a news briefing in New Delhi, India.   (AP Photo/Gurinder Osan, File)
Nancy Pelosi welcomes Afghan President Hamid Karzai as House Minority Leader John Boehner watches, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 5, 2009.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is seen at the election commission office in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday, May 4, 2009.   (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)
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