- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan The al Qaeda terrorist group appears to be operating in Kashmir, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.
Mr. Rumsfeld, in talks scheduled today with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, is expected to discuss Islamabad's role in finding Osama bin Laden's fighters in the remote tribal regions of Pakistan and Kashmir.
"I have seen indications that there, in fact, are al Qaeda in the areas we're talking about, near the Line of Control" that separates the Pakistani and Indian sectors of Kashmir, Mr. Rumsfeld said at a news conference in New Delhi before flying to Pakistan.
"I do not have evidence of precisely how many, or who, or where" they may be, the defense secretary said. He spoke after meeting with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to discuss the Kashmir crisis and the long-term outlook for U.S.-India military ties.
For some time, Indian officials have contended that al Qaeda members have infiltrated Kashmir, in part because that would draw a dramatic parallel to the U.S. war against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. An Indian official said this week there is evidence of a dozen to two dozen al Qaeda fighters in the Indian part of Kashmir.
Attacks on India by Muslim militants who want Kashmir to be independent, or part of Pakistan, are a main source of tension between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.
Some of the Pakistani militants in Kashmir have long-standing ties to al Qaeda, and some trained in bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan. A few non-Pakistani al Qaeda supporters are believed to have sought refuge in Kashmir, U.S. officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
But it appears that Pakistanis in the Kashmir region are acting of their own volition when they conduct cross-border attacks on India, the U.S. officials said.
India has insisted that Gen. Musharraf crack down on the militants' training camps in Pakistan and keep them from crossing into India. Gen. Musharraf assured India last week that he had ordered his forces to stop fighters from crossing.
Mr. Rumsfeld yesterday credited Pakistan with helping the United States get hold of al Qaeda fighters who left Afghanistan after the collapse of the Taliban regime last fall.
For months, U.S. and allied forces hunted for remnants of al Qaeda in Afghanistan but found almost none, leading many to conclude most had fled to Pakistan or elsewhere.
"In the case of al Qaeda in Pakistan, the Pakistani government has been very cooperative with the United States in helping to locate [the terrorists], and in a number of instances they have turned them over to us," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "And that has been a very helpful thing."
Mr. Rumsfeld came to New Delhi and Islamabad to keep up international pressure for an easing of tensions. He credited India with helping to ease tension since Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage visited both capitals last week.
"We recognize the fact that India has very recently taken a series of steps that have been useful, to be sure," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
The Indian government this week decided to allow a resumption of Pakistani commercial flights over India, and said it was withdrawing its warships from waters near Pakistan.
Mr. Rumsfeld also said Indian officials told him they planned to return their ambassador to Islamabad.
In yesterday's meetings in New Delhi, Mr. Rumsfeld discussed the possibility that U.S. ground surveillance equipment could be used to monitor activity on Kashmir's dividing line, but said no decision was made.
"It is unclear to me whether or not, and to what extent, that conceivably could be helpful," he said.

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