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Afghan FM: Pakistan Should Do More to Prevent Cross-Border Terrorist Attacks

Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta says Pakistan needs to do more to stop terrorist groups from crossing its border and launching attacks against Afghan civilians and U.S.-led coalition troops. The foreign minister made his remarks during an interview with VOA.

Foreign Minister Spanta's visit to Washington coincides with a spike in attacks by Taleban militants in their former stronghold in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

At least 600 people, mostly insurgents, have died in recent weeks in heavy fighting between international troops and remnants of the Taleban militia.

The Afghan foreign minister has charged that Taleban leaders in Pakistan's rugged tribal areas are coordinating attacks inside Afghanistan.

Islamabad denies granting sanctuary to the militants. Pakistan says it has 80,000 soldiers operating in areas bordering Afghanistan, and hundreds of its soldiers have been killed fighting insurgents backed by the Taleban and al-Qaida.

In an interview with VOA, Afghan Foreign Minister Spanta said terrorists fighting inside Afghanistan are trained and financed abroad, and then are coming across the border from Pakistan to launch attacks. "We believe there is not enough activity against terrorist groups outside Afghanistan in neighboring countries," he said. "Our Pakistani friends, they believe they can't have control of the centers of terrorist groups. But we hope, and we are ready to have better consultation and better cooperation in anti-terror war with our Pakistani friends."

The current violence in Afghanistan is the worst since Taleban leaders were ousted in late 2001 by U.S.-led forces. The insurgents have mounted numerous attacks, including raids, ambushes and suicide bombings since early May.

Foreign Minister Spanta said one reason for the upsurge is that Afghan security forces, especially in the south, are weak. "Our security troops, our security forces in the southern part of Afghanistan are very weak in intelligence, in weapons, in vehicles and communications and training problems," he said. "Also, the number of our security power is very small. For example, for some districts with more than 40,000 population, we have only 41 or 42 policemen."

Despite the violence, Foreign Minister Spanta says a great deal of progress has been made since the Taleban militia was swept from power four and a half years ago. "We have an elected president," he noted. "We have an elected parliament. The democratic legitimization is an historical achievement."

The foreign minister said seven million Afghans are now enrolled in school, and nearly half are girls. Spanta said the national economy is growing, with an 85 percent increase in the gross national product since 2001.

Spanta says Afghanistan is going through massive changes, and he realizes the country is still a young democracy with many problems.