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Afghan, Paksitani Leaders Plan Visits

by Sharon Behn

The Washington Times

After days of public sniping, the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed during dinner with President Bush to meet three times in an attempt to end violence in the region.

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will attend two gatherings of tribal elders, one on each side of the border, Afghan Ambassador Said T. Jawad told The Washington Times.

Both presidents are also to meet a third time, probably in Islamabad, Pakistan, said Mr. Jawad, who described their willingness to talk as "crucial."

A Wednesday night dinner with President Bush at the White House started off "tense" after a bout of name-calling in television interviews but apparently ended on a friendly note.

Mr. Bush "played a very constructive role in emphasizing that cooperation will benefit Afghanistan, Pakistan and global security," said the Afghan ambassador, who attended the dinner.

"It is an important achievement. The result will depend on how these decisions are implemented," Mr. Jawad said.

Pakistan Embassy spokesman Akram Shaheedi confirmed the meetings would take place. Both officials said a timetable had not been fixed for the meetings.

The leaders' commitment to work jointly on a solution to regional Taliban-led terrorism ended months of mutual accusations and recriminations as to the roots and backing of terrorists operating in Afghanistan.

Gen. Musharraf on Sept. 5 signed a peace agreement with pro-Taliban tribal leaders in Pakistan's North Waziristan border area in an effort to halt cross-border attacks.

Violence in the area has since escalated, and critics have slammed the deal as Pakistan's ceding military control over a region used by terrorists as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.

"There has been an increase in activity, certainly along the border region, especially in the southeast areas [in Afghanistan] across from North Waziristan," U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. John Paradis told a press conference covered by the Reuters news agency.

Mr. Jawad said the new tribal "jirgas" or council meetings would differ from the agreement between Pakistan and specific tribal groups along the border.

"We want tribal leaders on both sides of the border, not where the Taliban are based, but tribal leaders from both sides," he said.

"This is a long fight against terror -- it will require strong continued commitment, and it is in the mutual interest of Afghanistan and Pakistan to reach that objective as soon as possible," the ambassador said.

A document by a senior researcher at the British Defense Academy leaked in London accused Pakistan's Inter-services Intelligence (ISI) agency of indirectly supporting terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, the Associated Press reported.

Gen. Musharraf rejected the accusations, telling the British Broadcasting Corp. that his intelligence service had enabled the arrest of almost 700 terror suspects.

"ISI is a disciplined force, breaking the back of al Qaeda," said Gen. Musharraf, who is on a book tour for his memoirs.

He flew to London yesterday, where he met for two hours with Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The document was part of a private review of global efforts to combat terrorism, Associated Press reported, and according to Britain's Ministry of Defense did not represent the views of the ministry or the British government.

Nevertheless, the British document closely paralleled the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, parts of which were declassified earlier this week in response to media leaks.

The NIE called the Iraq war a "cause celebre" for Islamic terrorism and said that despite U.S. troops' wreaking serious damage on al Qaeda leadership, the number of terrorists is spreading in number and geographic dispersion.

Mr. Jawad said the tone of Wednesday's 21/2 hour White House dinner was cordial and constructive, although he acknowledged that it had started off a little "tense."

"They shook hands, and some of the participants shared cigars," said Mr. Jawad. "It was very friendly."

Afghanistan is experiencing the worst rise in terrorist violence since the U.S.-led 2001 fall of the Taliban government, with attacks on the border area of Pakistan tripling in some areas, according to U.S. officials.

NATO agreed yesterday to take command of peacekeeping in all of Afghanistan next month after the United States pledged to transfer an extra 12,000 troops to its force, Reuters reported.

Pentagon officials said the transfer of troops currently in Afghanistan's eastern region would entail the biggest deployment of U.S. troops under foreign command since World War II.

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