- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2006

President Bush and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said yesterday they are united in the effort to capture or kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, even though the Pakistani general has signed a treaty with tribes along the Afghanistan border thought to harbor members of the Taliban.

While Mr. Bush has said U.S. forces cannot simply walk into Pakistan in search of the mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Gen. Musharraf did not invite troops to scour the mountainous border region, where bin Laden is thought to be holed up.

But Mr. Bush also did not back off his pledge this week that if he had convincing U.S. intelligence that bin Laden was in Pakistan, he would send troops in to capture or kill him.

“When he says, if we find — when we find Osama bin Laden, he will be brought to justice, I believe him,” the president said after an Oval Office meeting with the Pakistani leader. “And we’ll let the tactics speak for themselves after it happens. We’re on the hunt together.”

Gen. Musharraf, who has said Pakistan would handle such a situation itself, complained about criticism that he would not allow U.S. troops in his country.

“Now, why are we bothering or how to — the semantics of the tactics of how to deal with the situation? We will deal with it. We are on the hunt together. You want the person — if at all we confront him, if at all we find out his location, we are quite clear what to do,” Gen. Musharraf said.

“But let’s not get involved in how it ought to be done, by whom it ought to be done,” he said, noting that there is coordination between the two nations on intelligence, operations, strategy and tactics.

Gen. Musharraf said a peace treaty between his government and tribes along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is not meant to support the Taliban, and that news reports had mischaracterized the deals.

“The deal is not at all with the Taliban. This deal is against the Taliban. This deal is with the tribal elders,” Gen. Musharraf said.

Mr. Bush said: “I believe him.”

Pakistan earlier this month signed a truce with tribal figures. Afghanistan has insisted that the tribes are linked to the Taliban, the militant Islamic group that once ruled Afghanistan until driven from power in 2001.

Pakistan’s point man on the truce told The Washington Times Thursday that it is part of a broader strategy to keep terrorists out and will not undermine the fight against Islamic extremists.

“It’s not just a peace agreement. It is a larger strategy with a military arm, a political arm and a reconstruction arm,” Gov. Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai of North West Frontier Province said in a meeting with the paper’s editors and reporters.

The president said Gen. Musharraf vowed that “the tribal deal is intended to reject the Talibanization of the people and that there won’t be a Taliban and there won’t be al Qaeda” in Pakistan.

Mr. Bush has praised Pakistan for arresting hundreds of al Qaeda operatives inside its borders, but he has also urged the nation to do more to stop militants from crossing from its tribal regions into Afghanistan.

The president plans talks Tuesday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Then, he will have a three-way sit-down with both Mr. Karzai and Gen. Musharraf at the White House on Wednesday.

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