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: U.S. urged to target militants in Pakistan



From: Reuters
Published May 26, 2008 09:16 AM

U.S. urged to target militants in Pakistan

KABUL (Reuters) - The United States should target militant bases in Pakistan, an Afghan state-controlled paper said on Monday, reacting to a threat by a Pakistani Taliban leader to carry out attacks in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan and Pakistan, while both U.S. allies, have had strained relations, with Kabul accusing Islamabad of harboring Taliban and al Qaeda militants and allowing them to direct and carry out attacks from Pakistani soil.

The Hewad newspaper called on Pakistan's government to review its stance on negotiations with the militants and not allow such deals to threaten Afghanistan.

"Similarly, the United States of America which heads now the international campaign against terrorism, needs to focus all its attention on the terrorists' genuine nests," the state-run daily said in an editorial, referring to militant bases in Pakistani tribal areas along the Afghan border.

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Faced with a wave of suicide attacks over the past year, Pakistan has begun negotiations with Taliban militants who control much of the mountainous region on its side of the border with Afghanistan and many Pakistani troops have left the area.

Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud has said he would carry on fighting Afghan and foreign forces in Afghanistan whatever the outcome of the peace talks.

Mehsud's comments were clear testimony to the fact that certain circles in Pakistan did not wish to see a secure and stable Afghanistan, the Hewad said, without elaborating further.

AFGHAN DELEGATION

NATO, which leads a 50,000-strong force in Afghanistan, said on Sunday the Pakistan peace talks had already led to an increase in insurgent attacks within Afghanistan.

The newspaper said the tribal areas on the Pakistani side of the border were used as training and supply bases for the militants.

Ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan, who have historical border disputes, have seen many ups and downs.

Thousands of Afghan Taliban and several hundred al Qaeda members are thought to have fled to Pakistan when U.S.-led troops overthrew the Taliban government in Afghanistan in 2001.

Some U.S. officials have not ruled out the presence of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and Taliban leaders in Pakistan.

Suspected U.S. strikes have killed several militants in tribal areas of Pakistan in recent years.

Afghanistan is sending a high-level delegation to Pakistan in the coming days to voice concern about the peace deals, an Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman said on Sunday.

Previous peace deals between the Pakistani government and the Taliban all broke down in violence and gave the militants time to regroup, he said.

Afghan forces, backed by more than 60,000 foreign troops, are engaged in daily battles with Taliban militants, mostly in the south and east, the areas closest to the border with Pakistan.

(Writing by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Valerie Lee)

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