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We don’t want 2006-like truce in Pak: US
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

Even as Taliban militants declared a ceasefire in fighting with Pakistani troops on Wednesday, the Bush administration said it would oppose any truce that resembled an earlier deal struck by President Pervez Musharraf with the militants.

State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey told reporters, “I think everyone understands, including President Musharraf, that that agreement with tribal leaders did not in fact produce the results that everyone, including President Musharraf, had intended.”

“We would certainly want to see that any arrangement made was effective at pursuing President Musharraf’s goal and pursuing our goal, which is being able to defend against these kinds of extremist groups,” he said. “We want to see an agreement that is effective; the last agreement was not effective by President Musharraf’s own admission.”

Washington is opposed to any deal that would let armed Islamic militants continue to operate on Pakistani territory.

According to the Associated Press, a spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, a militant umbrella group, said the new cease-fire would include not only the tribal belt along the Afghan border but also the restive Swat region to the east where the army has also battled pro-Taliban fighters.

Tehrik-e-Taliban is led by Baitullah Mehsud, an Al-Qaida-linked commander based in South Waziristan whom Musharraf’s government has blamed for a series of suicide attacks across Pakistan, including the December 27 assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

Pakistani officials have with hindsight conceded that the September 2006 truce Musharraf entered with tribes along the Afghan border had backfired. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S. Mahmud Ali Durrani told this correspondent there were some “problems” with the pact. “There were violations,” Durrani admitted.

Baitullah Mehsud was one of the militants who were part of the 2006 ceasefire. As a result of that deal, militants were able to regroup along the unruly border region, and US officials have reported that this fueled the resurgence of the Taliban. Durrani was confident that Pakistani forces “will get him.”

This week, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a report to Congress that a next attack on the United States would most likely be launched by al Qaeda operating in “under-governed regions” of Pakistan.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto described Pakistan as “an important ally in going after al Qaeda within its border.”

Noting that US intelligence chiefs had this week told the Senate intelligence committee Al-Qaida continues to be a threat, Fratto said, “So that’s a focus of ours. It’s a major challenge and goal to be able to dislodge them from that area, and stop their operations. We’re going to do that in cooperation with both the Pakistani and the Afghani authorities.”

At the State Department, Casey said the US “understands” the threat and challenge posed to Pakistan from militant groups operating in the FATA, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, “and we all want to see actions taken to respond to that.”

He acknowledged that the efforts of Pakistani troops and the heavy casualties they had suffered in operations targeting militants.

“This is a serious problem,” Casey said, adding, “We want to see it addressed and we want to continue to work with the Government of Pakistan on it.”



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