- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will be hard-pressed at a White House meeting tomorrow to explain a peace deal with tribal leaders that Afghans fear will turn the border region into a safe haven for al Qaeda and the Taliban.

White House and State Department officials have told reporters that the meeting would focus on the resurgence of violence in Afghanistan and on a recent deal Pakistan signed with pro-Taliban elements in the region bordering Afghanistan.

The deal would allow the militants to live peacefully if they give up arms and denounce violence.

But the Afghans complain that the arrangement will lift the pressure on the Taliban and al Qaeda supporters living on the Pakistan side of the border and free them for waging attacks inside Afghanistan.

The Pakistanis reject the suggestion.

“This deal would not only bring peace to our side of the border but can also be replicated in Afghanistan if it succeeds,” says Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri.

President Bush says he understands what Gen. Musharraf is attempting to do but that the United States will be watching developments “very carefully.”

“What [Gen. Musharraf] is doing is entering agreements with governors in the regions of the country, in the hopes that there would be an economic vitality, there will be alternatives to violence and terror,” Mr. Bush told ABC News in a recent interview.

“We have made it clear that he should not provide an environment that enables people to go from his country into Afghanistan,” Mr. Bush said.

In a conversation with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer yesterday, Mr. Bush insisted that he would send forces into Pakistan to capture or kill al Qaeda leaders if solid intelligence information pinpointed them in that country, according to Cox News Service.

“Absolutely,” Mr. Bush said when asked whether he would give the order under those circumstances.

Mr. Blitzer asked whether he would send troops in despite Pakistan’s claims of sovereignty.

“We would take the action necessary to bring them to justice,” the president replied.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, who as head of Central Command oversees U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that the amount of Taliban military activity organized and supported from the Pakistan side of the border has increased in the past year.

“While we get a lot of great cooperation from the Pakistanis in many different ways, it’s clear that we’ve got to do more against the Taliban on both sides of the border for Afghanistan and Pakistan to be able to move in a better direction,” Gen. Abizaid said.

The Bush-Musharraf meeting is to be followed by a separate session with Mr. Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday.

The following day, the three leaders are to meet at the White House.

Gen. Musharraf and Mr. Karzai are in the United States to attend the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Mr. Karzai told world leaders at the United Nations yesterday that “terrorism does not emanate from within Afghanistan.”

He said there is a need to destroy terrorist sanctuaries beyond Afghanistan, and to dismantle all terror networks in the region.

Though he did not mention Pakistan by name, the reference was clear.

Earlier this month, Pakistan signed a truce with pro-Taliban militants in the North Waziristan region.

Pakistani troops agreed to end their crackdown in the area and the militants agreed to stop hiding foreign terrorists.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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