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Afghan army says needs more help from Pakistan

The chief of the Afghan National Army says that Afghanistan is not getting enough cooperation from neighboring Pakistan as it battles a Taliban insurgency.

world Updated: Jun 04, 2007 15:41 IST

Afghanistan is not getting enough cooperation from neighboring Pakistan as it battles a Taliban insurgency, the chief of the Afghan National Army said on Monday.

"We have a relationship, of course, under the coordination of the United States," Gen. Bismillah Khan said. "The cooperation that we need, unfortunately, we don't get."

Khan made the comments as he toured a commando training center on the outskirts of Kabul with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is making his second visit to Afghanistan since taking over the Pentagon in December.

Khan said the two countries need a better exchange of information and more joint training exercises.

Relations between the uneasy neighbors, both US allies in its war on terrorism, have deteriorated in recent months. The worst violence in years erupted three weeks ago in a disputed border area in Afghanistan's southern Paktian province.

Afghanistan said Pakistan invaded its soil and killed 13 Afghans. Pakistan said Afghan troops started unprovoked firing on border posts.

The two sides have blamed each other for the resurgence of the Taliban, driven from government by a US invasion following the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Khan said the Afghan National Army would reach its targeted strength of 70,000 soldiers by 2008 and would be fully operational by 2011. But he said 70,000 was not enough

Khan said he would ask Gates to speed up equipping and training his army.

Taliban violence has picked up in recent weeks following a traditional winter lull in fighting, despite the presence of nearly 50,000 NATO and US-led coalition troops in Afghanistan.

Taliban suicide bombers strike several times a week and have recently moved into relatively peaceful northern areas of the country. The Taliban has said it has trained hundreds of suicide bombers.

NATO and US-coalition air strikes that have killed scores of civilians have sparked protests and calls for the resignation of President Hamid Karzai.

Gates was scheduled to meet Karzai at the national palace on Monday.

Gates' one-day visit is aimed at assessing coordination within the US-led coalition to ensure Afghanistan does not spiral into the kind of violence seen in Iraq.

He said on his arrival in Afghanistan late on Sunday that security and development were "slowly, cautiously" headed in the right direction.