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US, Pakistani Fight Against Taliban Merge, Analysts Say


US, Pakistani officials have reported high level Taliban arrests, deaths in Pakistan in recent weeks

As the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan increases its military pressure against insurgents, the fight against the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan has also been intensifying. Top U.S. military commanders are describing the recent arrests of fugitive Afghan Taliban leaders as important breakthroughs in the fight against terrorism.

In recent weeks, U.S. and Pakistani officials have reported a number of high level Taliban arrests and deaths in Pakistan. Analysts cite these developments as evidence of increased coordination.

Tasneem Noorani was Pakistan's Interior Secretary when Washington and Islamabad began pursuing an anti-terror strategy in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

He says what started out as a strong relationship between the two countries gradually eroded as U.S. officials continually called for Pakistani authorities to "do more" to target Taliban members who fled from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

But Noorani says the United States now appears to be pleased with Pakistan's focus on defeating its local Taliban movement.

"Over the years, I think what has happened is that now the cooperation, the quid pro quo by the U.S., there seems to be more realization since then in terms of winning the hearts and minds of [the] people of Pakistan, which wasn't there I think in the first few years," he said.

On his recent trip to Islamabad, U.S. General David Petraeus, who oversees the war in Afghanistan, expressed support for the Pakistani military's strategy of securing its recent gains against the Pakistani Taliban before taking the offensive against Afghan Taliban strongholds in the tribal regions.

General Petraeus also said the arrests of Afghan Taliban leaders in the cities of Karachi and Quetta are the result of intelligence breakthroughs between the United States and Pakistan.

The director of Pakistan's government-funded Institute of Strategic Studies Tanveer Khan agrees.

"The differences on the Pakistani attitude toward the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban, I think it has narrowed. And that I'm sure provides the basis for greater ability of cooperation, better coordination [and] better sharing of the actionable intelligence," said Khan.

He also says NATO's large-scale military operation in southern Afghanistan and U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement of a possible troop pullout starting next year has convinced Pakistan it is time to act.

"Pakistan is acting on the assumption, by and large, that some kind of end game in Afghanistan is beginning to shape up and Pakistan is deeply concerned that it should figure in the end game," he added.

But despite the apparent improvements in coordination between the two countries' fight against the Taliban, former Interior Secretary Tasneem Noorani says Pakistan has been disappointed in U.S. efforts on its behalf to broker peace with India.

"There was a big segment of Pakistanis who thought [the] U.S. would pressurize India into some kind of an arrangement whereby the problems between India and Pakistan would be resolved so that Pakistan would be left with unstinted attention to attend to the western border, but unfortunately that hasn't happened," said Noorani.

Top Pakistani and Indian diplomats are meeting for the first high-level talks between the two countries since the Mumbai terrorist attacks in late 2008.

Regional analysts believe the diplomatic contact will help reduce bi-lateral tensions, which could allow Pakistan to intensify its military efforts to secure its northwestern areas bordering Afghanistan.

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