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Pakistanis doubt Afghan troop surge

world Updated: Dec 02, 2009 12:40 IST

President Barack Obama's announcement that the US will send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan got a lukewarm reception in neighboring Pakistan on Wednesday and sparked fears it could lead to more instability in both countries. The US presence in Afghanistan is already unpopular with many ordinary Pakistanis, who say foreign troops there fuel terrorism in their own country. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has said he feared more troops could force militants in Afghanistan to enter Pakistan.

"More American troops will mean more violence," said Ammar Ahmed, a 20-year-old engineering student. "It will worsen the situation both in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Obama also said Afghan Taliban sanctuaries based in Pakistan "cannot be tolerated," but he announced no new incentives for compelling Islamabad to address the problem. The Taliban use their sanctuaries in Pakistan to launch attacks on US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
While Pakistan has moved forcefully against militants behind attacks inside Pakistan over the last year, it has provoked Western anger by avoiding attacks against the Afghan Taliban on its territory.

Many analysts believe Pakistan is playing off both sides _ accepting US funds to crack down on militants while tolerating the Afghan Taliban in the event the radical movement takes power in Afghanistan once the Americans withdraw.

"That is always a strong possibility," said Shuja Nawaz, a Pakistani military expert at the US-based Atlantic Council. Army and government officials have said in private they do no want to see a speedy withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan because they fear it could trigger chaos.