Pakistan probes Taliban collusion

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“This government is in a perfect storm right now” with 19 percent inflation,” Mr. Inderfurth said. “What they really need is food aid.”

The Bush administration has promised Pakistan an emergency infusion of $115 million, primarily to compensate for rising food prices.

In addition to economic aid, Mr. Gilani said, intelligence sharing is key to solving the problems in the FATA, an area populated by Taliban insurgent groups, criminal organizations and al Qaeda training camps, as well as ordinary villagers. Many of the residents are members of Pashtun tribes with relatives across the sparsely monitored border.

“We want to have more intelligence sharing with Afghanistan and NATO, so if there’s credible, actionable intelligence, it will be passed to us,” he said.

Mr. Gilani said Pakistani security forces now could be trusted because “the army chief [Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani] is highly supportive of democracy and is not ambitious,” unlike his predecessor, Mr. Musharraf.

However, U.S. concerns about Taliban sympathizers within the ISI have made the Bush administration reluctant to pass on such intelligence and prone to take unilateral action against terrorism suspects.

The ISI nurtured the Taliban movement to stabilize Afghanistan after the Soviet army retreated in 1989 and to counter Russian, Indian and Iranian-backed militant groups.

The fight against terrorism is personal for the prime minister, whose party leader, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated last year.

“This is not ‘Charlie Wilson’s War,’” said Mr. Gilani, referring to a popular book and movie about U.S. support for the anti-Soviet resistance of the 1980s. “This is Benazir Bhutto’s war.”

“Now [the Taliban] have become monsters for both of us,” said Mr. Gilani, referring to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Pakistani authorities and Afghan intelligence officials who have spoken to The Washington Times have said that a Pakistani militant, Baitullah Mehsud, who lives in the FATA region, is accused of planning the Bhutto killing.

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