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American Forces Press Service

Cheney Visits Pakistan, Afghanistan to Discuss Border Security

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2007 – Vice President Richard B. Cheney’s unannounced visit to Pakistan yesterday focused on ways to shore up security along the Afghan-Pakistani border and built on discussions earlier this month between Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, White House officials said.

Cheney met with Musharraf following a weeklong trip through Asia to discuss efforts to prevent a resurgence of Taliban and al Qaeda along the 1,500-plus-mile Pakistani-Afghan border.

White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters yesterday that the vice president’s meeting was confidential, but that it builds on previous discussions between Pakistani leaders and U.S. leaders, including Gates.

The U.S. considers Pakistan a vital ally in the war on terror and depends on its support, Snow said during a White House briefing. “The Pakistanis remain committed to doing everything possible to fight al Qaeda, but having said that, we also know that there’s a lot more that needs to be done.”

The U.S. government is “deeply aware” of difficulties along the Pakistani-Afghan border and Taliban and al Qaeda aims there, he said.

Of particular concern is the threat of Taliban and al Qaeda operatives targeting Afghanistan in a new spring offensive. “We know the Taliban is trying to gear up for a spring offensive, and we intend to be working with the Pakistanis to become increasingly effective at dealing with those threats,” Snow said.

“What we’re telling (the Pakistanis) is we’re supporting them in the war on terror, and we look forward to working with them in each and every way possible to be more effective in going after those who are trying to contribute to a global terror network,” Snow said.

Gates met with Musharraf in Pakistan on Feb. 12 to discuss ways to improve control along the Pakistani-Afghanistan border.

“Pakistan is playing a very constructive role,” he told reporters traveling with him. “It’s incurring a significant cost in lives and, I might add, in treasure in fighting this battle on the border.”

Gates said he and Musharraf talked about violence expected to resume in the spring and 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,” he 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.

After meeting with Musharraf, Cheney continued his trip to Afghanistan to meet with President Hamid Karzai. Before the meeting, the vice president escaped unharmed when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside an entrance to Bagram Air Base.

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