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Petraeus in key Pakistan talks after taking command

world Updated: Jul 12, 2010 21:23 IST

AFP
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US General David Petraeus today praised Pakistan's fight against Taliban militants during a key first round of talks in the country since taking command of US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan.

The four-star general, who was credited with turning around the Iraq war, arrived in Afghanistan on July 2 to take over NATO's 47-nation mission from US General Stanley McChrystal, sacked last month by Obama for insubordination.

US and NATO officials say Pakistan is vital to reversing Taliban momentum in Afghanistan, where commanders are scheduled to boost the number of foreign troops to 150,000 in a counter-insurgency push to end the war quickly.

Pakistani troops have fought major campaigns against homegrown Taliban in its northwest, but US officials have put pressure on Islamabad to crack down on groups who stage cross-border attacks against American troops.

Petraeus held talks with Pakistan's army chief of staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, in the garrison city of Rawalpindi today, US and Pakistani officials said.

"Recent events demonstrate both the common threat posed to Pakistan and Afghanistan by insurgents and the efforts that the Pakistan military are making to counter this threat," said Petraeus.

"I look forward to continuing to work with General Kayani to identify areas of mutual interest and to cooperate in efforts that can help improve regional security," he added.

It was Petraeus' first visit to Pakistan as head of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, although his relationships with Pakistan date back to his previous post as head of US troops in the Middle East and South Asia.

Pakistan said Petraeus and Kayani discussed "matters of professional interest and expressed satisfaction over the level of cooperation between the two forces." US forces have been waging a covert drone war against Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked commanders in Pakistan's northwest tribal belt.

Washington has branded the area a global headquarters of Al-Qaeda and say it is home to Islamist extremists who plan attacks on US-led troops in Afghanistan and on cities abroad.

Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American charged over an attempted bombing in New York on May 1, allegedly went to Pakistan's Waziristan for bomb training.

Pakistani commanders have not ruled out an offensive in North Waziristan, but argue that gains in South Waziristan and the northwestern district of Swat need to be consolidated to prevent troops from being stretched too thinly.

A Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked bombing spree across Pakistan has killed more than 3,500 people in three years since government troops besieged a radical mosque in the capital Islamabad in July 2007.