Afghans say time for Pakistani action on militants

KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan said on Tuesday that after the Pakistani prime minister made a commitment to U.S. President George W. Bush to secure the border with Afghanistan, it was now time for Pakistan to take action.

Relations between Afghanistan and its neighbor Pakistan have sharply deteriorated in recent months with Afghan officials repeatedly accusing Pakistani agents of secretly backing Taliban insurgents fighting Afghan and foreign troops on Afghan soil.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani sought to reassure Bush of his government’s commitment to securing the border with Afghanistan during a visit to Washington on Monday.

“We talked about the need for us to make sure that the Afghan border is secure as best as possible,” Bush told reporters after the White House talks. “Pakistan has made a very strong commitment to that.”

The Afghan government welcomed Bush’s comments.

“We are very pleased to see the statement coming from President Bush on expressing the need for increased Pakistani activity in the border areas so they stop the cross-border infiltration,” Afghan presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada told a news conference in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

The Afghan government has told the United States and NATO allies that “the source of the terrorism in Afghanistan goes back to the sanctuaries inside Pakistan territory,” Hamidzada said.

But, he said, “unfortunately we have seen a lot of talk from the Pakistani side and less action, we are hoping that they will walk the talk, it is a time to implement”.

Pakistan’s new civilian government has turned to talks with militants in its tribal border region in order to defuse violence that has killed hundreds of Pakistanis in the last year.

But Afghan and NATO leaders say the talks have eased pressure on the militants allowing them to send more insurgents into Afghanistan where attacks along the eastern border are up by some 40 percent this year.

Afghan officials also accuse Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency of being behind a string of attacks including the suicide bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul this month which killed 58 people and an April assassination bid against President Hamid Karzai.

Pakistan denies the Afghan charges and says the Kabul government is trying to divert attention from its own failure to quell the Taliban insurgency.

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