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Hamilton: Time for US to get tough on war-on-terror allies

The former co-chair of the Iraq Study Group said the US's relationship with Pakistan needs to be reevaluated. The US also needs to be firmer with Iraq's prime minister on meeting deadlines for benchmarks.

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Lee Hamilton, one of Washington's wise men on national security issues, called for the US to take a firmer line with two key allies in the war on terror, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at Wednesday's Monitor breakfast.

"I think that our relationship with Pakistan needs to be reconsidered, reevaluated.… What has driven our relationship with Pakistan has been the fear that the alternative to Musharraf would be a radical government with a nuclear bomb. I think that fear is overstated…. I believe it is necessary for the United States to be able to go after the sanctuaries in Pakistan," he said.

When he was asked whether such action could cause the Musharraf government to fall, Mr. Hamilton responded, "It is a risk, and it is a risk I would be willing to take."

The US also should be tougher in dealing with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on the need to meet performance benchmarks, Hamilton said. "We have given him half a dozen deadlines. He comes up to the deadlines, and nothing happens. He doesn't do anything; nothing happens. Well, he has got that figured out. He doesn't need to pay attention to it, and he hasn't.… You have to have some enforcement mechanism, and I would not be too specific about what kind of enforcement," Hamilton said.

Hamilton, a Democrat, represented Indiana's Ninth District in Congress for 34 years where he served as chairman of the Committee on International Relations. More recently, he was vice chair of the 9/11 Commission and co-chair of the Iraq Study Group. Currently, he is a member of the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the president's Homeland Security Advisory Council, and the FBI Director's Advisory Board,.

As a member of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, Hamilton had been briefed on the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that the White House released Tuesday. The document, which offers the consensus view of the nation's intelligence agencies, said that Al Qaeda had found a "safe haven" in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

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