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Pakistan President Defends Record on War Against Terror

  • Benjamin Sand

Senior military commanders from 21 countries, including the United States, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have completed Thursday a two-day anti-terrorism conference in Islamabad. The symposium focused on improving international cooperation in the fight against terror, and comes as American lawmakers question host country - and key U.S. ally - Pakistan's commitment to the fight. VOA's Benjamin Sand has more from the Pakistan capital.

The two-day symposium was co-hosted by the Pakistan and U.S. armies in an attempt to improve military ties between various regional allies in the U.S.-led war on terror.

Addressing the conference's closing session Thursday afternoon, Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf rejected criticism that his country was somehow falling short in the fight against terrorism.

"There must be trust. If there is no trust, no commitment, then I think the coalition is meaningless," he said. "It is meaningless if we are not all on board, if we are bluffing each other, if Pakistan is bluffing, and if I am bluffing, I think we should be out of the coalition."

Both U.S. and Afghan authorities say hundreds, perhaps thousands of Taleban insurgents have established military bases inside Pakistan's remote tribal areas.

Security experts have also linked elements within Pakistan's powerful military intelligence to many of the fugitive Taleban insurgents.

President Musharraf denied any ties between Pakistan's intelligence agencies and the militants and promised to continue his country's role in fight against regional extremism.

Pakistan has also sharply criticized new U.S. legislation that would link military aid to Islamabad with improved efforts against Taleban insurgents and al-Qaida linked militants.

Musharraf said such efforts could be counter productive, stressing Pakistan has already committed more than 85,000 troops to the fight and has lost hundreds of soldiers.

"We have contributed our maximum, We have suffered the maximum but we will continue until victory," he said.

President Musharraf also defended a series of controversial peace agreements between Islamabad and tribal militants along the Afghan border.

He said tribal forces allied with the government have recently killed more than 300 foreign militants in the South Waziristan tribal region, which is known for harboring Taleban and other extremists.

But critics say pro-Taleban extremists have used the agreements to carve out sanctuaries in parts of both North and South Waziristan, leading to a sharp rise in cross border attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

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