Obama reportedly to focus on bin Laden capture

Unnamed adviser to president-elect: Al-Qaida is our enemy, and bin Laden our principal target.

Bin Laden 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Bin Laden 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
President-elect Barack Obama plans major changes in US policy on the war in Afghanistan and intends to renew the commitment to hunt for Osama bin Laden, underscoring the fight against al-Qaida as the nation's highest priority, a newspaper reported Tuesday. The Washington Post said Obama, who takes office on Jan. 20, wants to explore a more regional strategy in Afghanistan, including the possibility of negotiations with Iran. "This (al-Qaida) is our enemy," the Post quoted an unnamed senior adviser as saying. "And he (bin Laden) should be our principal target." Unidentified national security advisers to the president-elect were quoted as saying Obama believes the Bush administration has played down the hunt for the al-Qaida leader after years of failing to apprehend him. The report also quotes US intelligence officials saying the search for bin Laden is as intensive as ever but al-Qaida's threat would remain large even if bin Laden were neutralized. Members of Obama's transition team "have yet to examine available military and intelligence resources and how they are currently being used," the Post reported. Additionally, it said, they have yet to plot a diplomatic approach to Pakistan, where bin Laden is thought to be in hiding. Obama has said he would be receptive to unconditional talks with Iran but later said such episodes would be impossible without proper groundwork. The newspaper report quoted a US military official as saying in the future an intermediary could be used to establish the groundwork for such talks. President George W. Bush has made talks between the United States and Iran contingent upon the Islamic republic stopping its uranium enrichment program that the Bush administration believes is intended for nuclear weapons. Iran maintains its enrichment program is solely for the generation of energy. The Post says Obama plans to add thousands of troops to the campaign in Afghanistan, but might also seek to find common ground with Iran, which shares a border with the south central Asian nation. The unidentified official was quoted as saying the Iranians do not want Sunni extremists in charge of Afghanistan any more than the United States does. Most Iranian Muslims belong to the Shi'ite sect of Islam, not the rival Sunni. On the Taliban question, the report quoted advisers as saying Obama might support discussions between the Afghan government and elements of Taliban which have agreed to abandon violence and respect the country's Constitution.