President Obama's new strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan focuses more on augmenting Afghan security forces. He said that the strength of Afghan National Army (ANA) will be raised to 134,000 and also pledged to implement his decision of sending 17000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Bush had also sent 10000 troops to Afghanistan but he took that step towards the end of his second term and that, too, after being severely criticised by the Democrats for concentrating on Iraq at the cost of anti-Taliban war in Afghanistan. The new strategy unveiled last week takes a much broader view of Al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. In the first place, Mr Obama has bracketed Afghanistan with Pakistan and said that that the security and stability of each other is inextricably linked. What he implied was that insurgency in Afghanistan is sustained by Al-Qaeda and Taliban safe havens in the tribal areas of Pakistan, which he described as "vast, rugged and often ungoverned." In order to be able to root out terrorists hiding in the tribal regions, Obama accepted that Pakistan needs assistance, both military and economic. The ability of the government of Pakistan, he said, "Is tied to its own strength and security." He, therefore, announced a number of initiatives the US plans to take for strengthening the economy and security forces of Pakistan. He disclosed that he had asked Congress to pass two bipartisan bills. One of these is Kerry-Lugar bill proposing US$1.5 billion a year assistance to Pakistan for five years. Assuring the people of Pakistan that the US aims to establish a sustained, long-term strategic partnership with Pakistan, Obama hinted that the five-year aid package could be extended beyond its initial five-year term. The other bill is for the establishment of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) in Pakistan's tribal areas. The scheme for ROZs was announced during Bush's visit to Pakistan about three years ago. But progress on the bill was held back due to the deteriorating security situation in the region. President Obama is keen to expedite the passing of this legislation because ROZs are expected to generate employment opportunities for the young people in the areas through economic development. This is being considered as an important instrument for fighting insurgency because, according to a survey, 70 percent of young Pashtuns join the ranks of Taliban for higher salary. The good news for the economy of Pakistan is that Obama has not only promised enhanced level of sustained economic assistance to the country, he has also called upon the international community to assist Pakistan and pledged to work with IMF, World Bank and other organisations to help Pakistan tide over its economic woes. But at the same time, the US president has made it clear that Pakistan is being strengthened militarily and economically so that it could eliminate the extremists inside its borders who pose a threat to not only the US but also to Pakistan. The aid to Pakistan is contingent upon its performance in war against terrorism; it will not be a blank cheque. "Pakistan," he said, "must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out Al-Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders. And we will insist that action be taken - one way or another - when we have intelligence about high level terrorist's targets." Singling out Al-Qaeda and its extremist allies, as the "greatest threat to the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan," the president underlined as absolutely necessary further coordination and cooperation among the three countries. "The terrorists within Pakistan's borders are not simply the enemies of Pakistan or Afghanistan-they are grave and urgent danger to the people of Pakistan," he said in his speech. "They assassinated Benazir Bhutto. They have blown up bridges, derailed foreign investment, and threatened the stability of the state," added the US president while referring to the havoc wreaked by the terrorists and extremists in Pakistan. From the new counterinsurgency strategy unveiled by Obama, it seems that the US believes that the success of this strategy depends upon bolstering the capacity of the Afghan state as well as action against terrorists operating from the tribal regions of Pakistan. On both these fronts Obama has announced important steps, which will increase US military expenses in Afghanistan by 60 percent from the existing level of US$2 billion a month and deepen its involvement in strengthening the economy and security forces of Pakistan. President Obama has also left open the option of dialogue with reconcilable elements of the Taliban. The aim behind this option is to isolate hardcore Taliban from the moderate Taliban, and thus defeat insurgency. A significant feature of the new strategy is the plan for involving the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan and all those who in the words of President Obama have "stake in the security of the region," like China, Russia, Iran, India and Central Asian States in helping stabilise Afghanistan. For this purpose, Obama has proposed the setting up of a new Contact Group for Afghanistan and Pakistan together with the UN, NATO allies and also the Central Asian States, Gulf countries, China, India, Iran and Russia. The purpose of this move is to achieve a regional consensus on Afghanistan. The new US strategy on Afghanistan has been welcomed in Islamabad as well as in Kabul. President Zardari and PM Gilani have termed the new US strategy as a vindication of Pakistan's policy on Afghanistan based on regional approach and combining political methods with military means to end the Taliban insurgency. But the new strategy also puts much greater responsibility on Pakistan as with the increased economic and military assistance from the US, Pakistan would be required to do more. The writer is a senior research fellow at IPRI, Islamabad E-mail: