U.S. urges Pakistan to move against Afghan Taliban

Thu Jan 21, 2010 3:17pm EST
 

By Phil Stewart

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates met Pakistani leaders on Thursday to urge them to begin hunting down Afghan Taliban on their border, but signaled the United States would not push the pace of operations.

Pakistan ruled out a new offensive against militants soon, saying it had to consolidate gains against its home-grown Pakistani Taliban, fighting to bring down the government.

Islamabad has mounted big offensives against Pakistani Taliban factions, but has resisted U.S. pressure to go after Afghan Taliban in border enclaves who do not strike in Pakistan but cross the border to fight U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Gates, on his first trip to Pakistan since U.S. President Barack Obama took office last year, is visiting after a period of tense relations marked by suspicion on both sides.

Keen to dispel what he called a trust deficit, Gates praised Pakistan's offensive against its al Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban and assured U.S. support for future operations.

"We are not attempting to push them to pursue this any faster than they are comfortable doing, and that they are capable of doing," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.

"Their military is operating at a higher operational tempo than it has in recent memory and they are being stretched very thin, as our military is for that matter."

Analysts say Pakistan sees the Afghan Taliban as tools to counter the growing influence of old rival India in Afghanistan and as potential allies in Afghanistan if U.S. forces withdraw and, as many Pakistanis fear, leave the country in chaos.   Continued...