Gates, Pakistani President Discuss Border Issues
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
MANAMA, Bahrain, Feb. 12, 2007 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met with President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan this morning at the president’s Camp Office in Rawalpindi.
The main theme of their talks was how to work separately and together to improve control along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, Gates said.
The secretary traveled to Pakistan after attending NATO meetings in Seville, Spain, and an annual international security policy meeting in Munich, Germany.
Following his meeting with Musharraf, Gates held a short news conference with U.S. and Pakistani media in Islamabad before changing planes here for his trip home. He told the reporters he had thanked Musharraf for Pakistan’s help in the global war on terror, noting that Pakistan is a strong ally of the United States in this effort.
“Pakistan is playing a very constructive role,” Gates said. “It’s incurring a significant cost in lives and, I might add, in treasure, in fighting this battle on the border.”
The secretary said he thanked Musharraf for Pakistan’s efforts to enforce the Waziristan Agreement. Waziristan is made up of tribal areas in Pakistan along the Afghan border. Under the Waziristan Agreement, Pakistani authorities agreed to let armed Afghan tribes continue crossing the border in small numbers, a U.S. defense official said. Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents have been taking advantage of this agreement and sending large numbers of armed people across the border.
Gates said Musharraf has acknowledged the Waziristan Agreement had initial problems in early enforcement, but that enforcement is improving. He added that today’s talks focused on ways the two countries can work together and do things better.
Gates and Musharraf also talked about violence expected to resume in the spring and the measures the Afghans, NATO, the United States and Pakistan can take both separately and together to better prepare.
“We talked about the importance of seizing the offensive this spring and to deal the Taliban and al Qaeda a strategic setback,” the secretary said.
He also described to Musharraf the augmentation of U.S. forces on the Afghan side of the border that he directed a few weeks ago.
Officials on both sides have been looking at how they can improve operational effectiveness and coordination among these forces.
“(Musharraf has) been meeting with his commanders, seeing how they can improve the effectiveness of their operations in the area, pretty much like I was in Afghanistan talking about the same thing,” Gates said.
In response to a reporter’s question about U.S. troops in Afghanistan shelling Taliban positions across the border in Pakistan, Gates replied that all operations are coordinated with the Pakistanis.
The secretary said the United States hopes to play a constructive role in improving relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, since all three nations have a mutual interest in stabilizing the border and Afghanistan becoming a stable, prosperous democracy. “If we weren’t concerned about what was happening along the border, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
Gates noted that his first visits to Pakistan more than 20 years ago were connected with the United States and Pakistan’s mutual effort of helping the Afghans drive the Soviet troops out of Afghanistan.
“After the Soviets left,” he said, “the United States made a mistake. We neglected Afghanistan, and extremism took control of that country. The United States paid a price for that on Sept. 11, 2001. We won’t make that mistake again. We are here for the long haul.”