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US Commander Says Taliban, al-Qaida Work Together in Pakistan

A senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan says Taliban and al-Qaida forces in the Pakistan border area are turning their attention more toward Pakistan, and are working together to hit Pakistani forces. Major General David Rodriguez spoke to reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday, and VOA's Al Pessin reports.

General Rodriguez says better security in his area of eastern Afghanistan, and increased turmoil in nearby areas of Pakistan, have led Taliban and al-Qaida groups based in the border area to focus on Pakistan and work together more than in the past.

"Many of them, we have seen over the last year, are coordinating with each other more based on their short term goals, rather than their long term goals, which are not necessarily the same," he said. "So, I think that they will move to where the best opportunity is to get the highest payoff. Right not, that probably seems to be in Pakistan, based on what is going on in the last couple of months here."

Pakistan has experienced increased insurgent violence particularly in the Swat Valley, north of Islamabad.

"They are doing more coordination and more training off of everything from resources to intelligence and technical expertise and things like that, yes, that is shared a lot more than it has been in the past," said General Rodriguez.

General Rodriguez says the insurgent focus on Pakistan has contributed to a drop in infiltrations across the border into Afghanistan, and could mean the insurgents will not launch much of a spring offensive in Eastern Afghanistan this year.

General Rodriguez and other U.S. officials say the increase in attacks inside Pakistan is convincing Pakistani military leaders that they have to deal with the Taliban and al-Qaida threat, which had been seen as aimed mainly at Afghanistan.

General Rodriguez says Pakistani military officers are beginning to respond.

"They are working, for example, to develop a better capacity to do counterinsurgency operations, like many other nations are, because that has not been their forte and what they have been trained on as a major focus here, but they are adjusting their military now to do those things," he said.

The general says the United States is helping with coordination and information sharing, but no U.S. involvement inside Pakistan is being contemplated.

Regarding his area of responsibility in northeastern Afghanistan, where security has improved over the last year, General Rodriguez says he expects several thousand more Afghan soldiers to be ready to join the fight in the coming months. He says he does not need any more U.S. or NATO combat troops, but he does need 800 trainers for the Afghan police. He hopes to get some of the one thousand U.S. marine trainers whose deployment to Afghanistan was announced last week.