U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met with Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf to discuss cooperation against al-Qaida terrorists and Taleban insurgents operating on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Mr. Gates said Pakistan is a strong ally in the war against terrorism:
“My sense is that Pakistan is playing a very constructive role. It’s incurring significant cost in lives, and I might add in treasure, in fighting this battle on the border. There are always ways that all of us can improve, that includes NATO and the U.S., [and] the Afghans.”
Mr. Gates said there has been “a significant increase in attacks” from across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, particularly from Pakistan’s North and South Waziristan provinces. He thanked Mr. Musharraf for Pakistan’s efforts to enforce the agreement it made with Waziristan tribal leaders to stop cross-border attacks by Taleban and al-Qaida terrorists.
The governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as NATO and the international community, are working together to coordinate a more comprehensive approach to the border regions. This approach would address insufficient security forces, poverty, and the lack of education for children and employment opportunities for the community. The U.S. has recently requested over ten-point-six billion dollars in funds from the U.S. Congress to address these issues. The governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as the international community, are dedicated to bettering the lives of Afghans and Pakistanis living in the border regions.
Mr. Gates says he and President Musharraf discussed the threat:
“We talked about the importance of seizing the offensive this spring to deal the Taleban and al-Qaida a strategic set-back. So, I think there is a mutual interest in improving our effectiveness, improving our coordination, and the understanding that we have a real opportunity this spring.”
Secretary of Defense Gates said the United States made a mistake after the Soviet Union left Afghanistan. “We neglected Afghanistan,” he said, “and extremism took control of that country.” The U.S. he said, “won’t make that mistake again. We are here for the long haul.”