Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is expected to meet with
top U.S. officials in Washington this week, including President George
Bush. His visit comes during new tensions among Afghan, Pakistani and
U.S. officials over how to counter a growing Taliban insurgency in
Afghanistan. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad.
fighters in Afghanistan launch new offensives each summer when warm
weather eases travel and clears passes in the country's rugged
mountains. But the summer of 2008 has been particularly violent, with a
40 percent increase in attacks in eastern Afghanistan over the previous
Just across the border in Pakistan, Taliban militants have
expanded their territory and now control large parts of the country's
remote tribal areas. Officials in northwestern Pakistan say Taliban
influence is spreading out from the tribal regions into larger towns.
and Afghan officials say countering the Taliban in Afghanistan will
require depriving insurgents of their strongholds in Pakistan's tribal
areas. Afghan President Hamid Karzai says militants who use those bases
to launch attacks across the border are his country's most serious
"The fight against terrorism is not in Afghanistan and
we will not be secure and safe unless Afghanistan and the international
community address the question of sanctuaries in Pakistan and the
terrorist training camps there," he said."
But Afghan and
Pakistani officials not only argue over what to do about the Taliban
sanctuaries, but also who is to blame for the militants' growth. In the
past month, officials from both countries have accused their
counterparts of supporting Taliban factions. Afghan officials even
directly accused Pakistan's military and intelligence services of
participating in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul. Pakistan
rejected the allegations.
During a visit to Kabul last week, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer took time to urge both countries to cooperate.
than ever we now need a regional approach in trying to stem this
situation," he said. "Because I cannot imagine anyone who would
consider it acceptable that many terrorists from all over the world
gather in a certain area and create mischief and havoc there."
in recent months, Pakistani officials have made it clear that they are
forging their own strategy in countering the militant groups and it
is a strategy that favors holding peace talks instead of military
The talks have drawn concern from NATO, Afghan and
U.S. officials, who have urged Pakistan to do more to stop the Taliban
from launching attacks in Afghanistan.
Rehman Malik is the head
of Pakistan's interior ministry. Last week he rejected suggestions that
the United States is pressuring the government to move more
aggressively against the militant groups.
"We are taking our
own actions; we are designing our own policies," said Malik. "There is
no interference whatsoever from outside and we will not accept any
interference from anywhere."
President Pervez Musharraf is
viewed by many Pakistanis as having long followed a military-focused
counter-terrorism policy advocated by the United States, which security
analyst Talat Masood says damaged his popularity within Pakistan.
Masood says the new government is being careful not to follow the same
"They don't want to give an impression that they are
fighting this war on behalf of America," he said. "So they don't want
any American involvement. At the same time I think the present
government has not really settled down to an extent to formulate and
implement an integrated policy against militancy and the rising
insurgency. And meanwhile, the militants are taking full advantage."
the United States, some officials have responded to the rising Taliban
insurgency with proposals for more foreign aid to the Pakistani
government, including a five-year, $7.5 billion
civilian development package.
Pakistani officials have
welcomed proposals for more aid. However, lawmakers in the otherwise
fractious coalition government also say there is broad agreement that
no outside countries should be involved in how Pakistan chooses to deal
with the Taliban militants.
Before leaving Islamabad on
Saturday, Prime Minister Gilani told reporters that security issues
will be high on the agenda during his U.S. visit. But he said his
coalition government will continue to pursue its own strategy in
countering the Taliban insurgency.
"This is our own fight, this
is our own cause,"said the Pakistani prime minister. "I have lost my
own leader because of terrorism. So my priority number one is to
maintain law and order in the country."
Besides meeting with
President Bush on Monday, Pakistani officials say Mr. Gilani will meet
with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert
Gates as well as the country's two leading presidential candidates,
Senators John McCain and Barack Obama.