'Pak must do more to check Taliban'
Making Pakistan "do more" to check the real problem of increased Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan with strikes at terrorist training camps in north and south Waziristan and Baluchistan is Washington's "major priority", a senior US official says.
Noting that the Taliban increased its insurgency in 2006, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs R Nicholas Burns acknowledged on Friday, "It's a real problem. There is a problem of forces coming from Pakistan into Afghanistan to attack, and then to return to Pakistan to seek refuge and refitting."
US is working very closely with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and with the Pakistani military and the Pakistani intelligence services to see that Islamabad will do more, and make a concerted effort to strike at those terrorist training camps in north and south Waziristan and in Balochistan, he said.
"That is a major priority for our relations with Pakistan. Now we have a very close relationship with Musharraf. We admire what he has done and what he continues to do to try to strike out at these insurgent groups," Burns said briefing reporters on the situation in Afghanistan.
"It is a very difficult terrain. It is mountainous terrain. And of course, the Pakistani military has lost hundreds of people in these counterinsurgency operations in that part of - in those two provinces in Pakistan," he said.
"So we're working closely with Pakistan, but we do think a greater effort must be made on both sides of the border to defeat Al Qaeda because it's also attacking across the border as well as the Taliban," Burns said.
Asked if an ongoing spat between Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and Musharraf will impede US hopes for Afghanistan and the strategy it wants to pursue there, Burns said, "We're working very closely with President Karzai and President Musharraf to see that the Pakistanian-Afghan political establishments and militaries can work more effectively together."
"It's an abiding preoccupation of ours," he added, recalling President George Bush's dinner meeting with the two feuding allies in the White House last September.
"You've seen that sometimes they have public disagreements, but in the main, both governments have indicated to us that they know they have to have coordination and cooperation between them to be successful," Burns said.
Bush, he said, is asking Congress for $10.6 billion in additional assistance for Afghanistan "because we intend to win in Afghanistan. We intend to defeat the Taliban, and we intend to help the government of President Karzai."
The increased assistance, he said was not an acknowledgement that "we've done too little in the past, but is a reflection of the increased threat from the Taliban in 2006." Nor would he agree that the threat increased because "you took your eye off the ball".
The aid package was worked out after a strategic review of US policy towards Afghanistan "so that we can help the Afghan government succeed and we can defeat the Taliban" Burns added.