Pakistan's military chief has held low-key talks with his Australian
counterparts Wednesday and agreed to step-up counterterrorism
cooperation as his country targets pro-Taliban militants in the Swat
Valley. Australia also plans to send additional humanitarian aid to
General Tariq Majid, the commander of the
Pakistani armed forces, has held private discussions in Canberra with
his military counterpart, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston and
Australian Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon.
In a statement,
Fitzgibbon said that Pakistan's ability to defeat Taliban insurgents
was "critical to regional and global security."
month, Pakistan launched an offensive against militants in the Swat
Valley, about 130 kilometers from the capital, Islamabad.
Majid has reiterated Pakistan has continued to support U.S. and
NATO-led forces in neighboring Afghanistan, where several hundred
Australian troops have been deployed.
The government in Canberra
has been urging the authorities in Islamabad to intensify efforts to
combat militants and prevent them from moving across the Afghan border.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says that Pakistani forces should be
careful to avoid harming the innocent in its pursuit of Taliban
"We certainly expect that the Pakistan government
will protect human rights and do its best to ensure that its civilians
aren't put into a conflict zone or put into danger but the real point
here is, it is the extremist activity of the Taliban and other
terrorists who are putting pressure on Pakistan itself, putting
pressure on the Pakistan Government, putting pressure on Pakistani
civilians," Smith said.
Smith has announced that an extra $9
million will be spent on food and other aid for those made homeless in
the Swat Valley conflict. The battle between the Pakistani army and
Taliban militants has displaced more than 1.5 million people.
has already agreed to increase its assistance to the police in
Pakistan, including help with crime and terrorism investigations as
well as intelligence analysis.