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US official warns Pakistan about tribal leaders

America's top intelligence officer has warned Pakistan that it will soon have to decide what it can do about its tribal leaders' failure to prevent the movement of Taliban.

india Updated: Dec 16, 2006 12:51 IST

America's top intelligence officer has warned Pakistan that it will soon have to decide what it can do about its tribal leaders' failure to prevent the movement of Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters across the Afghanistan border.

"Sooner or later, the government will have to reckon with it," US Director of National Intelligence John D Negroponte was quoted as saying on Friday during a meeting with Washington Post editors and reporters.

But with elections in Pakistan coming, the United States understands that President Pervez Musharraf "has a domestic political balancing act to perform," he added.

In September, representatives of the Pakistani government signed accords with tribal elders in North Waziristan in which those leaders agreed that they would not allow border crossings "for any kind of militancy."

In return, Pakistani army units withdrew from that area. Negroponte said that the "tribal authorities are not living up to the deal" and that back-and-forth travel by the Taliban and others "causes serious problems."

Although Negroponte said that the growing Afghan insurgency is "no threat to the central government in Kabul," he noted that it is not clear whether the NATO forces there are large enough to handle the renewed fighting expected in the spring when the weather clears.

His downbeat assessment was supported by a recent report by Anthony H Cordesman, a former Pentagon official who has just returned from Afghanistan where he received briefings from a US embassy team, including US military commanders, the Post said.

The Afghan insurgency grew in the past year because of financial an military aid from a sanctuary in Pakistan, while the weak Kabul government has not received enough military and economic support from NATO and the United States, according to Cordesman.

"Patience, a long-war strategy and adequate resources can make all the difference," said Cordesman, who holds the Arleigh A Burke Chair in Strategy at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

He said in his report that he came away from Afghanistan believing that the effort could be successful, but that the "development of effective government and economy will take at least 5-10 years; no instant success is possible."

"A major Al-Qaeda and Taliban presence is building up in both Afghanistan and Pakistan" for a new offensive next year, Cordesman said.

"These groups have de facto sanctuary in Pakistan, a major presence in the east and south, and a growing presence in western Afghanistan."

Judging from the declassified intelligence briefing he received, Cordesman said, the US and NATO forces there are "insufficient" to secure the south and the west.

He said more special forces are needed in the east where the troops "are spread very thin."

From sanctuaries in western and southern Pakistan, where the government has ceded control over border areas, Al-Qaeda and Taliban cadres provide both financial and manpower support to the insurgent groups, the Post quoted Cordesman as saying.

"This is a two-country war," he said, and the problems "are ultimately as dangerous to Pakistan as to Afghanistan and the US."

First Published: Dec 16, 2006 11:54 IST