ISLAMABAD - The outgoing Bush administration was always going to leave President-elect Barack Obama with the problem of what to do about Pakistan, the US's ally in the war on terrorism.
That problem got bigger when Islamist militants, allegedly from Pakistan, butchered 171 people in the Indian city of Mumbai last week, providing a potential trigger for conflict between South Asia's nuclear-armed rivals.
Pakistani security officials have warned that all their forces will be switched to the eastern border with India, leaving Al Qaeda and the Taliban free to roam on the Afghan border if a confrontation develops.
Indian analysts, however, say a military face-off is unlikely, given the high costs involved in such an action.
US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice arrived in New Delhi yesterday as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, flew into Islamabad on a mission to calm tempers.
"US mediation effort shows that this might just spin out of control unless watched very carefully," said Samina Ahmed of the International Crisis Group.
"Rice has had several conversations with President-elect Obama. It is a difficult one for the new administration."
Managing Pakistan is a foreign policy priority for the United States, with 32000 US troops in Afghanistan and plans for more, and Al Qaeda leaders plotting their global jihad in Pakistani tribal lands on the Afghan border. - Reuters