NATO Tells Pakistan “We Need Your Army In Tribal Areas”

Pakistan must continue military operations against militants in its tribal regions despite rising tensions with India following the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Nato officials said on Monday.

“We hope Pakistan’s efforts (against the insurgents) are not diminished as a result of what happened” in Mumbai, Nato spokesman James Appathurai told reporters.

He made the comments as reports indicated that both Pakistan and India might send troops to their common border.

Nato which is fighting a Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan is concerned that a redeployment of Pakistani troops in the east of the country could mean reduced Pakistani military action against militants in the frontier region with Afghanistan.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of the alliance’s 26 foreign ministers in Brussels, Mr Appathurai said the new Pakistani government had shown it was determined to fight insurgents in the northern part of the country.

“This government is embracing responsibility for fighting extremism,” the spokesman said, adding: “It is Nato’s assessment that these operations are robust.”

“Nato believes that the success of Pakistan in increasing pressure on the militants over the last few months has been very valuable,” he said.

Mr Appathurai repeated that Nato soldiers were not deployed within Pakistan. “The Nato mandate ends at the border. We are not participating in any ground or air operations in Pakistan,” he said.

The alliance has deployed over 50,000 troops in Afghanistan and has said that stabilising the country is Nato’s key priority.

The war is, however, increasingly unpopular with European public opinion and in Canada.

Mr Appathurai said Nato was convinced that there was no military solution in Afghanistan and that issues of governance, development and reconstruction were part of the alliance’s “comprehensive approach” towards the country.

Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is expected to visit Pakistan later this monthin a bid to reinforce political contacts with the new government. Military contacts between Nato and Pakistan are improving.

The Nato spokesman said that Mr Scheffer had been heartened by his recent meeting with President Hamid Karzai in which the Afghan leader said that his relations with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari were “good and trusting”.

Fighting extremism was a “shared challenge” for Afghanistan and Pakistan and both countries were part of the solution, the spokesman said.

By Shadaba Islam
Dawn Newspaper

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