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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Pakistan Key Counterterrorism Ally, Says White House

26 February 2007

Cheney confers with Pakistan's President Musharraf in Islamabad

Washington – The United States considers Pakistan a vital ally in the struggle against terrorism and will look to its government for continued support as al-Qaida and the Taliban gear up to target neighboring Afghanistan in a new spring offensive, says White House spokesman Tony Snow.

“The Pakistanis remain committed to doing everything possible to fight al-Qaida, but having said that, we also know that there’s a lot more that needs to be done,” Snow said February 26 at a White House briefing.

Snow’s comments came after Vice President Cheney made an unscheduled stop in Islamabad, Pakistan, February 26 to meet with President Pervez Musharraf as part of the vice president’s weeklong tour through Asia.

Cheney’s visit follows a February 12 meeting between Musharraf and Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Bush’s February 15 speech outlining a new strategy for stabilizing Afghanistan. (See related article.)

“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.

Among the topics on the agenda, Snow said, were ongoing military operations, economic development initiatives to improve the livelihoods of families living along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and ways to build improve relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“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.

Since 2001, the Pakistani government has played a central role in the international coalition fighting terrorism, credited with bringing hundreds of al-Qaida members to justice and foiling a 2006 plot to blow up U.S.-bound transatlantic flights.

During this time, Pakistan also has suffered at the hands of terrorists.  In 2006, at least 900 Pakistanis were killed and 1,500 injured in 650 terrorist attacks across the country, according to Pakistani officials.  In addition, Musharraf has survived multiple assassination attempts by al-Qaida.

The cooperation in the fight against terrorism, Snow said, is not only important to ensure the safety and security of Pakistan and Afghanistan; it is also a key element in the fight.

In a February 25 interview with ABC’s This Week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised Musharraf’s government for its support.  “The Pakistani leadership knows that al-Qaida would like nothing better than to destabilize Pakistan and to use Pakistan as the base rather than Afghanistan for its operations. And so we have excellent cooperation with the Pakistanis,” she said.

But al-Qaida and Taliban forces remain in the mountainous Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, from which they launch attacks on Afghan villages and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. The NATO force is charged with helping the Afghan government keep the peace and rebuild after decades of conflict.

The United States has about 27,000 troops in Afghanistan -- approximately 15,000 in the NATO force and the rest tasked with counterterrorism missions and training Afghan security forces.  The Pentagon recently announced plans to bolster the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan by 3,200, and the United Kingdom, Denmark and Lithuania also announced plans to add forces to their NATO contingents to help meet the expected surge in terrorist violence. (See related article.)

“We’re constantly reviewing how we can disrupt and dismantle al-Qaida and the Taliban," Snow said. “We’re also deeply aware of the difficulties in dealing with the border areas and the challenges of taking on al-Qaida there.”

Continued close coordination is key to succeeding against terrorists that constantly change tactics.  The recent creation of a joint Afghan-Pakistani-NATO intelligence center is designed to allow faster information exchange about cross-border movements and other terrorist activities.  The Pakistani government also has upgraded its border checkpoints and established new ones in an effort to improve regional security.

“Our concern in dealing with the Pakistanis is to work successfully and to continue working successfully in the War on Terror,” Snow said.  “We want to continue working with that government so that we can be even more effective in taking on the Taliban and al-Qaida.”

A transcript of Rice's interview with ABC’s This Week is available on the State Department Web site.

For more information, see Rebuilding Afghanistan.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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