- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 7, 2009

KABUL, Afghanistan | Pakistan’s president called Tuesday for foreign allies to provide more support - not more troops - to help win the battle against extremist militias along its volatile border with Afghanistan.

Asif Ali Zardari said his country’s forces, together with the Afghan military, could do the fighting themselves if given the right international support.

The comments come ahead of an expected influx of 20,000 American troops into Afghanistan to combat a Taliban Islamist insurgency that has sent violence skyrocketing in the last two years.

On his first official visit to Afghanistan since taking office in September, Mr. Zardari also discussed trade partnerships with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

“We and my brother Karzai, we are going to fight them. And to the world we say, ‘Help us. We can fight. We can look out for ourselves. We want to win. We have the strength. All we need is the support. Given the proper support, we can do the job better and cheaper and easier than you can do.’ ”

Pakistan and Afghanistan are dependent on each other for any long-lasting peace. Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters operate on both sides of the hard-to-police Afghan-Pakistan border, sometimes seeking sanctuary in Pakistan’s tribal areas to launch attacks into Afghanistan, or within Pakistan.

Afghanistan’s war effort also depends heavily on supplies trucked in across mountain passes from Pakistan.

Though neither the Pakistani nor Afghan governments have strong control over the border area, the two presidents said they have made progress in working together against the extremists.

“We have a much better understanding between our two governments, between the two presidents than ever before,” Mr. Karzai said.

Recent relations between the two countries have been troubled, with Mr. Karzai criticizing the sanctuaries within Pakistan where he says insurgent Taliban and other militants regroup, rearm and train to fight in Afghanistan. He also directly accused the Pakistani government, under former President Pervez Musharraf, of supporting the Taliban.

The United States is planning to send at least 20,000 more troops into Afghanistan in early 2009, to supplement the 32,000 already in the country. The new arrivals are slated for the south, where they will boost a 12,500-strong NATO force fighting a Taliban insurgency that has strengthened over the last year.

As the two presidents met, the daily drumbeat of violence continued.

In volatile northwest Pakistan, a government official announced that Taliban militants kidnapped 11 pro-government tribal elders. The elders were captured Monday in the Mohmand tribal region, Iqbal Khattak, an official, said.

Meanwhile, police said suspected militants killed a Pakistani and an Afghan in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region. The Afghan was shot, while the Pakistani was hanged, police official Akram Khan said. The bodies were found with notes accusing the victims of being spies for the U.S.

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