NATO, Pakistan vow to intensify anti-Taliban cooperation

November 20th, 2008 - 12:45 am ICT by IANS  

TalibanBrussels, Nov 19 (DPA) NATO and Pakistan agree that winning over the hearts and minds of tribesmen living in the country’s lawless border with Afghanistan is crucial to defeating the Taliban, the transatlantic alliance’s top military commander said Wednesday.”Only a comprehensive approach - which means engaging the people living there, and having their understanding and support, can facilitate the solution to the problem,” said Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, head of the NATO military committee.

Di Paola was speaking after a visit to NATO’s headquarters in Brussels by the Pakistani army chief of staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the first of its kind by such a high-ranking Pakistani officer.

The meeting took place just hours after a missile attack by a pilotless US aircraft reportedly killed at least four Islamic militants in north-west Pakistan.

US air raids inside Pakistani territory have angered Pakistan, which says such actions are likely to stoke pro-Taliban feelings among its people.

While insisting that it does not take part in cross-border attacks, NATO is aware that any perception of an excessive use of force by Western powers in the region risks undermining the popularity of its own International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan.

In Brussels, Di Paola said Kayani agreed with NATO on the fact that military means alone would not eradicate the Afghan insurgency.

And he insisted that Pakistani was “part of the solution”, not part of the problem.

The mountainous Pakistani-Afghan border not only provides a safe haven to the Taliban, it also hosts a vital supply route for US and ISAF troops operating in Afghanistan.

The critical Khyber Pass was re-opened this week after being closed following a Taliban attack on a convoy of 13 trucks carrying food supplies and two Humvee armoured vehicles.

Noting that the Afghan-Pakistani border was technically “unsealable”, Di Paola said the only solution was to try and isolate “the bad guys” from the local population.

In Brussels, Kayani vowed to intensify cooperation with NATO and to do anything in his power to help secure the Khyber Pass, with Di Paola noting that “a stable and peaceful Afghanistan is of vital interest to Pakistan”.

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