Pakistan to US: Don't surge in Afghanistan, talk to Taliban
Pakistan contradicts US Gen. McChrystal's strategy of pulling back from Afghanistan borders, and disagrees with the strategy of a surge to defeat the Taliban.
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Pakistan has for eight years declined to mount any serious pursuit of bin Laden and the other top Al Qaeda leaders who sought shelter in Pakistan after the 2001 US invasion drove them out of Afghanistan.Skip to next paragraph
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Pakistan also has quietly tolerated the presence of Mullah Omar, who US officials said is based near the Baluchistan city of Quetta and shuttling between there and Karachi, Pakistan's largest city and a key financial and logistics center for Islamic militants. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because intelligence on terrorist groups is classified. Officially, Pakistan denies that bin Laden and Omar are in the country.
Pakistan's laissez-faire attitude toward Al Qaeda, Omar and Afghan militants such as Haqqani doesn't appear likely to change in the face of stepped-up American pressure.
US national security adviser James Jones last week delivered a message to Gilani and other Pakistani officials from President Barack Obama, who urged Pakistan to take action against Afghan militant groups operating from Pakistani soil.
The Pakistanis politely told Jones that Pakistan is doing all it can, and that it must concentrate on groups that are attacking Pakistan, rather than those that are a threat in Afghanistan. Gilani's office said he told Jones that Pakistan's "forces were over-stretched because of continuous tension on the eastern border" with India.
Gilani's office said Friday that, "The new Afghan policy of the US government should not disturb the regional balance in South Asia."
Pakistani officials say that relations with India remain dangerously strained, requiring military resources on Pakistan's eastern border. Pakistan is also concerned about India's growing influence in Afghanistan, which Islamabad fears is part of a move to encircle Pakistan.
US officials say the Pakistani military is obsessed with the Indian border, where they say there's no active threat, and reluctant to address the threats that are a product of Pakistan's refusal to quash the insurgency on Pakistan's western border with Afghanistan.
"When we get into the position of stabilizing, then we can help the other side (the US)," said a senior Pakistani military officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue publicly. "There are limits of our power. You cannot be expected to use your force against all [militant] groups because then your power will be diluted. That's exactly what's happening on the other side [to the US in Afghanistan], they're all over the place and virtually in control of nothing."
(Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent.)
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