- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 15, 2010

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s president said Wednesday that his nation’s intelligence services are willing to cooperate closer with Afghanistan to fight Taliban militants.

President Asif Ali Zardari told reporters after meeting the Afghan leader that the two nations’ cooperation had improved since Mr. Zardari took office and “we intend to enhance it further.”

“We need more security cooperation between our intelligence and their intelligence, which Pakistan is willing to offer,” he said.

It was not clear, however, if the offer was endorsed by Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment, which historically wields more power than its civilian rulers.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai described the men’s meeting as wide-ranging and productive.

“This openness in dialogue in fact is a step forward in our relations,” he said, saying the discussion was focused partly on Taliban bases in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

“These are issues that we should discuss and these are issues that we should fight together,” Mr. Karzai said.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have a long history of tense and complicated relations, marred in recent years by Afghan allegations that Pakistan is not moving against Taliban militants on its territory, and has even backed some of their attacks.

The United States has also urged Pakistan to do more against militants in its territory, and for the last 2 1/2 years has fired missiles from unmanned drones against insurgent targets in the northwest of the country. There were two such attacks Wednesday in the North Waziristan tribal area, intelligence officials said.

The first attack killed 12 people outside the main town of Miran Shah, the officials said. Hours later, four people were killed in a second attack in the region, the officials said, without giving their names in line with the policy of their agency.

There has been at least 13 missile strikes this month, the most intense barrage yet since they began in 2004.

Mr. Karzai publicly criticized Pakistan during his first years in office but has been sending conciliatory messages as he pushes ahead with efforts to strike a peace deal with members of the Taliban. He recently set up a council tasked with pursuing peace talks with rebels willing to break with al Qaeda, renounce violence and recognize the Afghan government in Kabul.

Pakistan has offered to help negotiate with the militants, but many Afghan officials remain wary of Pakistan’s intentions.

The Pakistani government arrested the Taliban’s No. 2 leader in February in a joint raid with the CIA — a move that some analysts believe was driven by Pakistan’s desire to guarantee itself a seat at the negotiating table because Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was considered a likely channel in any talks with the top Taliban leadership.

Mr. Karzai proclaimed after a meeting with Mr. Zardari in March that Pakistan would be key to any talks with the Taliban.

In June, Mr. Karzai pushed out Intelligence Chief Amrullah Saleh, who had publicly accused Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency of links to attacks inside Afghanistan.

Associated Press correspondent Rasool Dawar contributed to this report from Mir Ali.

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