WASHINGTON (Online) - US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke has made it clear that US will respect Pakistans red lines about American combat troops, adding that elimination of terrorism and militancy from Pakistan is the top priority of the new US strategy.Pakistan is at the centre of our strategic concerns, Holbrooke said this in an exclusive chat with Wall Street Journal. Some people say to me ...why dont we go in there with our troops and just clean it up? he said. First of all we cannot do without their permission, and that would not be a good idea. Secondly, cleaning them up in the mountains of Pakistans tribal areas...is a daunting mission. A few weeks ago I flew up through the deepest and remotest valleys imaginable. You could see tiny villages in the crevices in the mountains. You do not want American troops there. So that option has gone, he said. There are a lot of structural similarities with Vietnam, he said. But the fundamental difference is 9/11. The Vietcong and the north Vietnamese never posed a threat to the US homeland. The people of 9/11 who were in that area still do and are still planning. Thats why we are in the region with troops. Thats the only justification for what we are doing. If the tribal areas of western Pakistan were not a sanctuary, I believe that Afghanistan could take care of itself within a relatively short period of time. The terrorists who threaten America are in Pakistan, but the US fights the Afghan Taliban, who dont. Thats a fair point, Mr Holbrooke said, but the reason for fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan is clear. He went on to say the Taliban are the frontrunners for Al-Qaeda and if they succeed in Afghanistan, without any shadow of a doubt, Al-Qaeda would move back into Afghanistan, set up a larger presence, recruit more people and pursue its objectives against the US even more aggressively. (Detailed interview on page 8) If Afghanistan had the best government on earth, a drug-free culture and no corruption it would still be unstable if the situation in Pakistan remained as today. That is an undisputable fact, and that is the core of the dilemma that the Western nations, the NATO alliance, face today, Richard Holbrooke said. When asked about alleged relations with ISI and Taliban, he said, We are well aware of these accusations. But our experience with Pakistani Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani does not support them. We deal with him with respect and with the assumption that he is a serious person doing the best he can under difficult circumstances, he said. He said he wants to press the Gulf States to cut the illicit flow of funding to the Taliban, involve India and reach out to the Chinese, who are close to the Pakistani military. Holbrooke said, I am very much in favour of giving Iran a place at the table if it wants it to discuss the future of Afghanistan, he said. But they have not indicated whether they wish to participate or not. Holbrooke said President Asif Ali Zardari deserves credit for his personal courage in holding the job. He welcomes the statesmanlike resolution of a recent political feud with Nawaz Sharif over the reinstatement of a Supreme Court judge. The fight could have resulted, he said, in civil war on the one hand or assassinations on the other.