NATO has called on Afghanistan to improve ties with Pakistan in order to ensure that there are no slips in the greatly improved and "stable" security situation in the country since the Taliban have been "militarily neutralised", and "conditions created for winning the war".
Lt Gen David Richards, the Afghanistan NATO/International Security Assistance Force commander, who is to relinquish office shortly after a nine-month stint, said in response to questions that President Hamid Karzai was being persuaded that "as an act of government" Pakistan did not want to see the Taliban win in Afghanistan.
Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf had told him, the outgoing IASF chief said, "That it is no longer Pakistan's policy" to let the Taliban win.
The reason was that if the extremists triumphed in Afghanistan, Pakistan would be next to be hit. "I am an optimist and believe that the glass is half full", Lt Gen Richards added.
Citing ISAF data in response, he disagreed that incursion from Pakistan had increased after the Musharraf regime signed the September 5 peace agreement with extremist leaders in north Waziristan, and that more people had been killed in Afghanistan since then.
The ISAF chief suggested that the media was being taken for a ride by Taliban propaganda.
He referred to international media's "idle talk" about 2006 being a worse year than 2005. "This is not true", he said emphatically.