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US Committed to Working with Pakistan to Shut Down Terrorist Havens


President Bush's homeland security advisor says the United States wants to work with Pakistan to shut down terrorist outposts along the Pakistani-Afghan border. But Frances Townsend also makes clear, the Bush administration may be willing to launch military strikes in the remote region as a last resort. VOA's Paula Wolfson has more from the White House.

Frances Townsend says the United States is committed to working with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to control terrorist activity along the border.

"First and foremost, we are working with our Pakistani allies to deny the safe havens," she said.

But during an appearance on the Fox News Sunday television program she had this response when asked if the United States might have to take additional steps on its own.

"We are working with them, but the president has been clear," added Townsend. "Job number one is to protect the American people. And there are no options that are off the table."

A short time later, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri warned against military strikes. He spoke on CNN's Late Edition.

"If you have superiority in technical intelligence, please share that with us," said Kasuri. "And when you talk of going after targets, you will lose the battle for hearts and minds."

The exchange followed the release last week of a report by the U.S. intelligence community that warned of a resurgent al-Qaida. The report said the terrorist organization was able to set up centers of operation in the border region, in large part because of a failed peace treaty between the Musharraf government and tribal leaders.

National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell told NBC's Meet the Press that President Musharraf's attempt at a political solution in the region clearly backfired.

"Rather than pushing al-Qaida out, they made a safe haven for training and recruiting. And so in that period of time al-Qaida has been able to regain some of its momentum," said McConnell.

McConnell went on to say he believes al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is alive and well somewhere in the tribal areas of Pakistan. But he stressed that Pervez Musharraf is one of America's strongest allies in the war on terrorism, noting the Pakistani president has launched an offensive since the demise of the agreement with tribal leaders that has resulted in heavy casualties for the Pakistani military.

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