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Pentagon: India-Pakistan Tensions Could Affect Search for Terrorists - 2002-05-28


Top U.S. defense officials are worried that tensions between India and Pakistan could affect Pakistan's help in searching for al-Qaida terrorists who have fled from Afghanistan.

Pentagon officials will not say whether Pakistan's assistance in the war on terrorism has already fallen off because of ongoing tensions with India over Kashmir.

But chief Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke says if Pakistani troops are diverted from the border with Afghanistan, it will not be helpful. "Their help has been enormous along that border and attention and troops that cannot be focused there because they're focused elsewhere, that is a concern for us because we need as much assistance as possible in guarding that very porous border," she said.

Similar concern is voiced by the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Major General Franklin Hagenbeck.

He is quoted as telling The New York Times that Pakistan has developed plans to drive al-Qaida and Taleban fighters from mountain sanctuaries inside Pakistani territory.

But the general says he is worried those military operations could be delayed by the tensions over Kashmir.

In the same interview, the general said he believes most top al-Qaida and Taleban leaders are now in Pakistan together with as many as one thousand fighters. He says they could be planning terrorist attacks aimed at disrupting the selection of a new government in Afghanistan.

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