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US Official Praises Pakistan in Fight Against Extremism

A top U.S. diplomat has praised the sacrifices Pakistan has made in fighting the increasing problem of extremism. During a visit to the South Asia region, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte also said progress in Afghanistan has undermined support for the Taleban, despite growing violence in the country. Daniel Schearf reports for VOA from Islamabad.

Negroponte had praise Wednesday for Pakistan's efforts in fighting a growing threat from militant Islamists.

The U.S. deputy secretary of state noted Pakistan has lost more than a 1,000 soldiers since 2001 in the fight against extremism, and has deployed a large contingent of soldiers to the volatile tribal border areas.

"There's no doubt whatsoever of Pakistan's commitment to restoring and establishing security in that part of the country, and (it) is more than doing its share in the war against terror," he said.

Negroponte made the comments Wednesday here in Islamabad, where he held a second round of a strategic talks with Pakistani officials.

Counter-terrorism efforts were at the top of the agenda.

The U.S. has pledged $750 million for Pakistan's three-pronged strategy of promoting security, dialogue, and development in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

Pro-Taleban militias are believed to have bases there, and al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is also thought to be hiding in the border region.

A United Nations report Sunday said most of Afghanistan's increasing number of suicide bombers had received training or support in Pakistan, and many were recruited from Pakistani religious schools.

Thousands have been killed in Afghanistan in the last year, the worst violence since the overthrow of the Taleban in 2001. Despite the rising death toll, Negroponte said during a visit to Afghanistan Tuesday that progress was being made.

"With improved security, prosperity, and social development, there are fewer places the Taleban can look for safe haven. The Afghan government is leading the nation towards a new future, and we will support that effort," said Negroponte.

Pakistan has sent about 100,000 soldiers to the border area to try to restore control. Attacks by pro-Taleban and al-Qaida groups escalated after a peace deal between Islamabad and militants in the border region broke down.

On Wednesday pro-Taleban militants in northwest Pakistan attacked a paramilitary post and captured at least 12 soldiers.

Recent attacks have not been limited to the border area. Suicide bombers have killed dozens of people in the last week, including more than 25 in and around the capital.

Extremist groups have a large degree of public support in Pakistan. A survey by Terror-Free Tomorrow, a U.S.-based bipartisan group, showed that more than a third of Pakistanis approved of radical extremist groups. Pakistanis also gave bin Laden a 46 percent approval rating, more than they gave their own president, General Pervez Musharraf.