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US, Pakistan Work to Improve Counter-Terror Cooperation


U.S. and Pakistani officials say they are working to improve cooperation on counter-terrorism and economic development. Bilateral meetings this week in Washington follow October's White House talks between President Barack Obama and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Ending attacks by the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan tops the strategic dialogue between Washington and Islamabad.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says it's central to U.S. security.

"We also have a common cause and a common obligation to be partners for one and another's prosperity in the fight against those who want to limit opportunity and take Pakistan backwards," he said.

Pakistan's government says it is working to negotiate with Taliban fighters, but the Taliban is looking to capitalize on the withdrawal by the end of this year of most foreign troops in Afghanistan, says Pakistani National Security and Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz who is leading his country's delegation to Washington.

"Although the war in Afghanistan may be winding down, just as in the past Pakistan will have to face the brunt of any instability that may engulf Afghanistan after 2014," Aziz said.

Former Pakistani High Commissioner Akbar Ahmed says there's been little progress between Pakistan's Taliban and the government in Islamabad.

"The Pakistani Taliban and the government of Pakistan are so wide apart that I am finding it very difficult to conceive how they will be joined," he said.

Kerry says Washington and Islamabad are working to boost cooperation on cross-border counter-terrorism.

"We recognize that Pakistan is a vital partner in supporting a secure Afghanistan," he said. "And we know how closely Pakistan's own security is linked to Afghanistan's success."

Pakistani security is also linked to a successful U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"The Pakistan army would want very much a strategic role in Afghanistan for its own reasons," Ahmed said. "It does not want to be surrounded by India. It does not want to see India influencing Afghanistan on Pakistan's western borders."

Sartaj Aziz says many Pakistanis feel Washington unduly favors India, Pakistan's rival.

"There's a strong perception in Pakistan that a lot of pressure is exerted on Pakistan on issues of concern to India," he said. "Our legitimate concerns are not conveyed to India with the same intensity."

Kerry says Washington and Islamabad have a vital shared interest at the center of a dynamic South-Asian market, and these talks include meetings with officials at the Pentagon, Treasury, and Energy Department.
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