Archive for Thursday, September 7, 2006

Pakistan, Afghanistan vow to fight common enemy

September 7, 2006

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— Pakistan's president Wednesday strongly defended his day-old peace pact with Taliban militants and, standing next to Afghan President Hamid Karzai here, made an impassioned plea to repair their stormy relations and combat the "common enemy" of terrorism and Taliban ideology.

Speaking outside Kabul's presidential palace, Gen. Pervez Musharraf acknowledged that the new truce with Islamic militants based in Pakistan's tribal border region had caused "misgivings" in neighboring Afghanistan, where government forces and 10,000 NATO troops are fending off a fierce armed offensive by hundreds of Taliban insurgents.

But the Pakistani leader, on a fence-mending visit to the Afghan capital, said he would not hesitate to act militarily if the Taliban forces reneged on the pact, which calls on them to end armed attacks inside Pakistan and to stop crossing into Afghanistan to fight against the Karzai government and international troops.

The agreement also requires foreign militants to leave the tribal area of North Waziristan or take up a peaceable life there, and it prohibits local Islamic extremist groups from enforcing draconian religious notions such as requiring men to grow long beards or destroying audio and video equipment.

Musharraf referred to Karzai repeatedly as his "brother" and brought a number of Pakistani officials who share Karzai's ethnic Pashtun origin. He said the two leaders of neighboring Muslim countries faced a common threat and that their only option was to stop criticizing each other, build a relationship of trust and cooperate to fight Islamic terrorism and extremism.

Karzai's response was less effusive but cordial, as he welcomed Musharraf and a large delegation of Pakistani officials to his palace with an honor guard and a brass band. After the two men met privately, Karzai described their discussions as "constructive," and said he hoped that soon, "all obstacles that have affected our relations will be removed."

The friendly and respectful atmosphere of the visit was a dramatic shift from recent months, in which the two leaders have angrily attacked each other from afar.

Karzai has repeatedly blamed Pakistan for being a source of shelter and support for the revived Taliban insurgency, which has carried out suicide bombings and assassinations. Musharraf has heatedly denied the charges and accused Karzai of knowing nothing about his own country.

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