Pakistan must do more to combat extremists in safe havens: US

July 18th, 2008 - 11:31 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Taliban
By Arun Kumar
Washington, July 18 (IANS) US defence leaders want Pakistan do more on its side of the border with Afghanistan to prevent Taliban and other violent groups to cross over and launch terrorist attacks from their safe havens in Pakistan’s tribal areas. There is no question that the absence of pressure on the Pakistani side of the border is creating an opportunity for more terrorists to cross and launch attacks, Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates said at a news conference.

“There are efforts under way to try and improve that on both the Pakistani side and on the Afghan and coalition side,” he said. “There is a real need to do something on the Pakistani side of the border to bring pressure to bear on the Taliban and some of these other violent groups.”

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who recently visited Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, said: “We’re seeing a greater number of insurgents and foreign fighters flowing across the border with Pakistan, unmolested and unhindered.”

“This movement needs to stop,” he said asking that all involved with operations on the border do a better job of policing the region and eliminating the extremists’ safe havens in Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas that are launching pads for attacks on coalition forces.

The most recent example was an attack on a coalition and Afghan military outpost in Wanat, in which nine soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team were killed.

“We either find ways to work better together or we fail to secure a better future for the people we’ve all pledged to protect,” Mullen said. “We can and must do better.”

Gates and Mullen said the enemy in Afghanistan has grown bolder, more sophisticated and more diverse. They also said the enemy is taking advantage of the safe havens to train and plan attacks.

Mullen said that doing something about the situation was the main message he delivered to all leaders he met in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The new Pakistani government needs to face the reality that it faces a security challenge of its own from these groups, Gates said. The number of terrorist attacks inside Pakistan has doubled in a year, he noted.

“One of the things that is really important is the civilian government gaining a full appreciation of the magnitude and reality of the danger to them posed by these groups and the lack of control or the lack of pressure in the FATA and in the Northwest Province,” Gates said.

“So it seems to me the first thing is for the Pakistanis to have a clear understanding of what’s happening. We can make a contribution there. And then,… as I’ve said before, we are ready, willing and able to help them in any way we can.”

Gates indicated that military planners are looking at a variety of options on how to respond to the need for more troops to Afghanistan.

“I think that we are clearly working very hard to see if there are opportunities to send additional forces sooner rather than later,” Gates said. “No decisions have been made; no recommendations have been made.”

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