Afghan, Pakistani Leaders to Confront Cross-Border Terrorist Activity
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2007 President Bush yesterday praised the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan as strong allies in the war on terror and congratulated them on their upcoming meeting to come up with better ways to confront extremists who straddle their shared border.
Speaking at a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai following their Camp David meeting, Bush expressed confidence that the “jirga” between Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will help them work more cooperatively to address their mutual security concerns.
The two leaders agreed to the session, which opens Aug. 9 in Kabul, Afghanistan, during a White House summit with President Bush in September.
About 700 clerics, politicians, tribal chiefs and other representatives from both countries also are expected to attend the four-day conference. Participants will talk about reconciliation and “how you can work together to achieve common solutions to problems,” Bush said. “And the main problem is to fight extremism.”
Karzai expressed concern that terrorists continue to hide in the mountains along the Afghan-Pakistani border. “And our duty is to complete the job, to get them out of their hideouts in the mountains and to bring justice to the people of Afghanistan, to the people of America and to the people around the world who are threatened by these terrorists,” he said.
The jirga will help strengthen the Afghan-Pakistani relationship so they can more effectively fight terrorism in both countries, he said.
The session comes as some Afghan officials have pointed fingers at Pakistan, claiming it’s not doing enough to crack down on Taliban and al Qaeda members hiding and launching attacks from within its borders. Pakistan denies the accusations.
A White House fact sheet outlines some of Pakistan’s contributions to the terror war. The country has worked closely with the United States to secure arrests of key terror leaders and killed or captured hundreds of suspected and known terrorists, including Mullaidullah, the Taliban’s No. 2 leader.
In addition, about 100,000 Pakistani troops are deployed in the region near the Afghan border, and hundreds of Pakistani security forces have died fighting terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001, the fact sheet notes.
Bush noted that terrorists operating near the border were plotting to kill Musharraf, and said the United States is in “constant communication” with the Pakistan government to provide intelligence to support its counterterrorism work.
“It’s in their interest that foreign fighters be brought to justice,” he said. “I am confident that with actionable intelligence, we will be able to bring top al Qaeda (operatives) to justice.”
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said during an Aug. 5 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Musharraf has been “a very strong ally” in the terror war and would support efforts to capture al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. “If we (had) actionable intelligence that Osama was in Pakistan, … my view is that President Musharraf would work with us to make sure that we could go after him,” Gates said.
Asked if the United States would act unilaterally, he replied, “I think we would not act without telling Musharraf what we were planning to do.”
The United States recognizes that problems exist on both sides of the border and is helping both countries as they work to confront them, Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, said last week.
“There’s a lot of activity on both sides of the border,” he said during an Aug. 2 State Department briefing. “We work with Afghanistan on the problems inside Afghanistan, and we work with Pakistan on the problems inside Pakistan.”
He recognized that “the writ of government doesn’t hold sway” in some tribal areas along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. “And we have major programs with Pakistan to bring economic development to the border areas, … to help them improve and transform the frontier corps to provide better security in that region, and … to cooperate with the government of Pakistan as it goes about its task of imposing government order and dealing with the extremists who are still holed up in those areas,” he said.