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Afghan, Pakistan Leaders Meet in Turkey


Turkish President Abdullah Gul met with his Pakistani and Afghan counterparts at a Wednesday summit in Ankara aimed at improving relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which have been strained over the war against the Taliban insurgency.

Following a day of meetings, the presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey agreed to increase cooperation among their intelligence agencies. Turkish President Abdullah Gul said the one-day summit made important progress.

"We discussed the possibilities for a strong cooperation for regional peace, stability and security," Mr. Gul said.

The most important segment of the summit was the meeting between the highest level military and intelligence officials of the three countries. Analysts say cooperation with intelligence operations is vital to the ongoing fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida. Some Taliban forces are believed to be using Pakistan as a base to launch attacks into neighboring Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accused members of the Pakistani intelligence of aiding the Taliban, a charge Pakistan has denied.

Turkey historically has enjoyed good relations with both countries and is playing a unique role in improving ties between them, says Yasmin Congar, Deputy Editor of the Turkish daily newspaper, Taraf.

"It was Turkey's idea to invite the intelligence chiefs and the chiefs of staff. And it's crucial that Pakistan cooperates with the Afghan government. And the infiltration from the Pakistan border into Afghanistan is a major concern. And as long as we can keep Pakistan and Afghanistan talking with each other and cooperating at every level, including military and the intelligence, I think there is more hope for a solution in Afghanistan. I think Turkey has been more successful than any other party in the recent past in bringing the parties together," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who is deploying an additional 21,000 American troops to Afghanistan bolster the 38,000 already there, says the United States will increase its focus on the situation in Afghanistan. Militant attacks have grown increasingly deadly during the last three years and insurgents now control wide areas of countryside where Afghan and international forces do not have enough manpower to maintain a permanent presence.

Mr. Gul says he will tell President Obama about the meeting when the U.S. president visits Ankara early next week. Turkey, NATO's only predominantly Muslim member country, is expected to take the rotating command of the NATO peacekeeping operation in Kabul in August. Turkey has about 900 noncombat troops in Kabul.

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