U.S. ‘watch­ing’ ally Pak­istan’s tac­tics with mil­i­tants

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Betsy Pisik

NEW YORK — The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion is send­ing mixed sig­nals to the new Pak­istani gov­ern­ment over its talks with mil­i­tants, trou­bled by the fail­ure of past deals but re­luc­tant to pub­licly crit­i­cize its key ally in the war on ter­ror.

“We’re watch­ing closely,” a State De­part­ment of­fi­cial said May 1. “The Pak­istani gov­ern­ment has been ne­go­ti­at­ing with tribes for years and years. It’s a tac­tic they’ve used in the con­tin­u­ing strug­gle to get a more se­cure [border].”

“The bot­tom line for us is that we need to see more re­sults. Any agree­ment must be en­forced,” said the of­fi­cial, who de­clined to be named be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to speak for at­tri­bu­tion.

His re­mark came amid a week of vi­o­lence on both sides of the border, a sui­cide at­tack in the tribal re­gions on the Pak­istani side of the border that in­jured 30 and an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt on Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai ear­lier in the week.

Afghan of­fi­cials said the at­tack on Mr. Karzai was likely car­ried out by al Qaeda-re­lated mil­i­tants from Pak­istan’s tribal belt.

Pak­istan has suf­fered heavy vi- olence from sus­pected mil­i­tants based in the same tribal re­gion.

More than 1,000 Pak­ista­nis have been killed dur­ing mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in the tribal ar­eas un­der the for­mer gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Pervez Mushar­raf.

In Islamabad, the new coali­tion gov­ern­ment led by the party of slain for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Be- nazir Bhutto is seek­ing a ne­go­ti­ated agree­ment with mil­i­tants.

“We be­lieve that mil­i­tary ac­tion alone will not be ef­fec­tive in per­ma­nently end­ing the phe­nom­e­non of ter­ror­ism,” a Pak­istani For­eign Min­istry spokesman told re­porters in Islamabad re­cently.

On April 30 the State De­part­ment re­leased a harsh as­sess­ment of Pak­istan’s coun­tert­er­ror­ism ac­tiv­i­ties, part of its an­nual re­port on ter­ror­ism.

“The trend and so­phis­ti­ca­tion of sui­cide bomb­ings grew in Pak­istan this year,” it said, not­ing that deadly at­tacks nearly dou­bled to 45 in 2007.

The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion was crit­i­cal of a 2006 cease-fire in the tribal ar­eas, which it says gave mil­i­tants time to rearm and launch new at­tacks in Afghanistan.

“Ob­vi­ously, this was some­thing that was tried be­fore. It did not work be­fore,” White House spokes­woman Dana Perino said April 30. “It’s im­por­tant that any agree­ment be ef­fec­tively en­forced and that it not in­ter­rupt op­er­a­tions where we are go­ing af­ter ter­ror­ists in that area.”

U.S. of­fi­cials con­cede that there is lit­tle they can do to in­flu­ence Islamabad’s deal­ings with ex­trem­ists, as Pak­istan is a sov­er­eign na­tion deal­ing with in­ter­nal is­sues.

And while the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion was orig­i­nally alarmed by the prospect of a cease-fire with the border ex­trem­ists, it has sought lately to down­play any fric­tion.

As­so­ci­ated Press

A mem­ber of the Tal­iban holds a blood-stained Ko­ran af­ter a sui­cide at­tack May 1 in Bara, Pak­istan, near the Afghan border.

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