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Pak committed to Taliban offensive: Gates

india Updated: Feb 12, 2007 13:31 IST

The United States Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Monday he had held talks with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf ahead of a spring offensive against the Taliban.

He said Musharraf had been meeting with Pakistani army commanders to see how they could improve their operations on the porous 2,500-kilometer frontier with Afghanistan.

"There is a mutual interest in improving our effectiveness and improving our cooperation and understanding so that we have a real opportunity this spring," Gates told reporters at Chaklala air base in Rawalpindi.

"I thanked him for Pakistan's help in the war on terror," said Gates, who hailed Pakistan's role in combating the Taliban despite previous criticism by US officials of Islamabad's effectiveness.

"Pakistan is clearly a very strong ally of the United States on this," he said.

Musharraf said recently that security along the border was the joint responsibility of Pakistani, NATO, US and Afghan forces and warned that Pakistan could not win the fight against militancy on its own.

Gates said that all forces in the border area should work closely together.

Asked what assurances he had received from Musharraf, Gates said: "What we really focused on was not getting assurances and making demands but rather on how we can work together better to be more effective in efforts on the border to stop the Taliban and stop Al-Qaeda."

Gates arrived in Pakistan early on Monday from Europe, where he appealed to Washington's allies to contribute more troops, equipment, and support personnel for the 35,000-strong NATO-led force in Afghanistan.

This was Gates's first visit to Pakistan, a key US ally in the "war on terror", since he replaced Donald Rumsfeld late last year.

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