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Asia-pacific

Holbrooke wants US to avoid 'grievous mistake' made in Afghanistan

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-07-23

Pakistan authorities ask visiting US envoy Richard Holbrooke for more US support in fighting the Taliban and express concerns about increased US activity in neighbouring Afghanistan.

AFP - Pakistan urged the United States Wednesday to share intelligence from spy flights and arm its soldiers against militants accused by Washington of plotting attacks from the Afghan border.
  
"Continued drone attacks in FATA (federally administered tribal areas) have proved counterproductive," Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's office quoted him as telling US regional envoy Richard Holbrooke in Islamabad.
  


Islamabad publicly opposes US strikes, saying they violate its territorial sovereignty and deepen resentment among the populace.
  
US President Barack Obama's troubleshooter for Afghanistan and Pakistan was visiting for a second time in seven weeks for talks the White House said would focus on economic and security issues -- and 1.9 million displaced civilians.
  
Gilani said drone attacks -- around 50 of which have killed more than 500 people since August -- have "seriously impeded Pakistan's efforts towards rooting out militancy and terrorism".
  
He urged the United States to provide drone technology, "much-needed equipment and ammunition to Pakistan's armed forces enabling them to ensure successful completion of the ongoing operation against the militants".
  
Gilani stressed that the United States "should share real time, credible and actionable intelligence with Pakistan," said the statement.
  
Holbrooke told a news conference that the United States was sharing information with Islamabad, particularly from a US Marines' offensive against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.
  
"We want to be sure and share with your government and your military, the military plans, so you can be prepared and coordinate. Because a lot of different things happen here," Holbrooke said.
  
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Pakistani officials objected that expanded US military action in Afghanistan will force militants into Pakistan, with the potential to further inflame the troubled region of Baluchistan.
  
"The Taliban can move east into Baluchistan and cause additional problems... we have to be prepared. That is what military planning is about and that is what allies should do," said Holbrooke.
  
Last May, US military commander Admiral Mike Mullen said the United States had shared with Islamabad surveillance data from drone flights over Pakistan, before requests ceased over the previous month.
  
US missiles have increasingly targeted strongholds of Pakistan Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud, branded by the US State Department as a key Al-Qaeda facilitator, with rewards for his capture posted by Pakistan and Washington.
  
Washington has put Pakistan at the heart of the fight against Al-Qaeda, and Obama has ordered an extra 21,000 troops to neighbouring Afghanistan in a bid to stabilise the country for elections as part of a sweeping new war plan.
  
The United States military does not confirm individual drone attacks, but its military and the CIA alone deploy unmanned aircraft in the region.
  
The Pakistani government statement quoted Holbrooke as commending Pakistan's "remarkable success" against militants and assuring support to rehabilitate around 1.9 million displaced civilians.
  
"We are also pleased to hear that the damage is less than we thought it would be. That is a very good piece of news," Holbrooke said.
  
Assistant Secretary of State for Refugees Eric Schwartz unveiled an extra 165 million dollars for humanitarian relief in Pakistan.
  
Pakistan launched an offensive in late April in northwest districts after Taliban fighters advanced towards Islamabad, under heavy US pressure to counter militants threatening the existence of the state.
  
Washington alleges Islamist fighters hide out in the Pakistani mountains near the Afghan border, plotting attacks on Western targets and crossing the porous frontier to attack foreign troops based in Afghanistan.

Date created : 2009-07-23

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