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US Ambassador to Afghanistan Answers Pakistan's Criticism - 2004-04-20

The United States' ambassador to Afghanistan has tempered his recent criticism of neighboring Pakistan, after the Pakistanis lodged a formal protest with Washington.

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is offering words of approval for Pakistan's efforts to root out foreign militants, reversing his recent criticism.

Ambassador Khalilzad, himself a native of Afghanistan, had earlier accused the Pakistani government of doing little to rein in Afghan insurgents and foreign terrorists believed to be hiding inside Pakistan.

The comments sparked a diplomatic row, with Pakistan protesting publicly on Monday that all other U.S. officials have complimented Pakistani efforts to capture suspected militants.

Pakistan has launched a series of military operations aimed at tracking down fugitive members of al-Qaida and Afghanistan's former Taleban regime, which have been waging an armed insurgency against Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, Mr. Khalilzad reversed his earlier statements and told reporters Pakistan is working hard to find the insurgents on its territory. "We want to have Pakistan's cooperation, and they have taken some very positive steps recently," he said.

The remarks followed Pakistan's lodging of a formal diplomatic protest to Washington over the ambassador's earlier criticism.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan announced the protest Monday, accusing the U.S. diplomat of having a "hyperactive" mouth. "It would be very helpful if he does a little less by talking less. He seems to be suffering from attention deficit disorder," he said. "There's a bit of hyperactivity in what he says."

Ambassador Khalilzad on Tuesday attempted to downplay the dispute. "Their response to my statements has been rather diplomatic," he said. "I don't think I need to engage in tit-for-tat in terms of those statements."

On Tuesday, Pakistani tribal militia continued searching for suspected foreign militants along the country's border with Afghanistan, a part of the country's latest military campaign against the insurgents.