By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential
candidate Sen. Barack Obama said on Wednesday the United States must be
willing to strike al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan, adopting a tough tone after a chief rival accused him of naivete in foreign
Obama's stance comes amid debate in Washington
over what to do about a resurgent al Qaeda and Taliban in areas of northwest Pakistan that President Pervez Musharraf has
been unable to control, and concerns that new recruits are being trained there for a September 11-style attack against the
Obama said if elected in November 2008 he
would be willing to attack inside Pakistan with or without approval from the Pakistani government, a move that would likely
cause anxiety in the already troubled region.
"If we have actionable intelligence about
high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will," Obama said.
The Illinois Democrat is trying to convince
Americans he has the foreign policy heft to be president after a rival candidate, New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton,
questioned his readiness to be commander in chief.
Clinton last week labeled Obama naive for
saying he would be willing to meet the leaders of Iran, Cuba, Syria, North Korea and Venezuela without preconditions in his
first year in office.
A poll by The Wall Street Journal and NBC
News said Clinton has widened her lead over Obama, going up to 43 percent in July from 39 percent in June. Obama tallied 22
percent, down from 25 percent in June.
Those polled cited Clinton's experience
and competence highest among her positive attributes.
Obama said he would make hundreds
of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional on Pakistan making substantial progress in closing down
training camps, evicting foreign fighters and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks on
White House spokesman Tony Snow said Pakistan
was working hard to fight al Qaeda and the Taliban, and Washington was doing what it could in support.
"At the same time, we recognize the sovereignty
of the Pakistani government and realize that they're putting on a serious push ... They're taking the fight to al Qaeda,"
IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN
Clinton, in an interview with the American
Urban Radio Network, stressed the importance of the Pakistanis "taking the actions that only they can take within their own
But she did not rule out U.S. attacks inside
Pakistan, citing the missile attacks her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, ordered against Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan
"If we had actionable intelligence that
Osama bin Laden or other high-value targets were in Pakistan I would ensure that they were targeted and killed or captured,"
Another Democratic candidate, former North
Carolina Sen. John Edwards, said he would not hesitate to use force against extremists but said, "I believe we must first
use maximum diplomatic and economic pressure on states like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to take all necessary actions to stop
Obama criticized President George W. Bush's
emphasis on al Qaeda in Iraq and said as president he would end the war there and refocus efforts on the al Qaeda threat in
Afghanistan and Pakistan by sending at least two additional U.S. brigades to Afghanistan.
He said that "because of a war
in Iraq that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged, we are now less safe than we were before
(Additional reporting by Missy