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Updated: January 21, 2010 16:39 IST

U.S. wants all Taliban safe havens to be eliminated: Gates

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U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday said the Pakistani Taliban operates in collusion with the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda, and it was impossible to separate these groups. Photo: AP
AP U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday said the Pakistani Taliban operates in collusion with the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda, and it was impossible to separate these groups. Photo: AP

US defence secretary Robert Gates told Pakistan on Thursday that Taliban safe havens along the Af-Pak border have to be eliminated or both nations would suffer “more lethal and brazen attacks“.

Arriving on a crucial visit to Islamabad, Mr. Gates said, “It is important to remember that the Pakistani Taliban operates in collusion with both the Taliban in Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda. So it is impossible to separate these groups.”

Saying that the chief reason for his visit was to develop a broader strategic dialogue with Pakistan, Mr. Gates writing in ‘The News’ made it clear that there was a link between Afghanistan’s stability and Pakistan’s stability.

His comments come as Islamabad has mounted a big military campaign against Pakistani Taliban faction that are attacking the state, but resisted US pressure to attack other Taliban groups like the powerful Haqqani network, who do not attack Pakistan but cross the border to fight US and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

“If history is any indication, safe havens for either Taliban, on either side of the border in the long run lead to more lethal and more brazen attacks in both nations,” Mr. Gates wrote in an article in a leading Pakistani newspaper.

AP adds

Gates to discuss Afghanistan war

The U.S. Defence Secretary said his talks with Pakistan's military and civilian leaders are

intended to explain the U.S. war strategy in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Mr. Gates will reassure Pakistan that the United States is ``in this for the long haul,'' he told reporters travelling with him to Islamabad from India.

The Pentagon chief said he won't directly press Pakistan to expand its military campaign against militant forces. Instead he will ask his hosts what their plans are.

Mr. Gates' first meeting on Thursday is with Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar. He also has separate meetings scheduled with Prime Minister Yousaf Reza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari.

The U.S. wants Pakistan to broaden its offensive to border areas where members of the Afghan Taliban have been seeking refuge. In an essay published Thursday in The News, an English-language Pakistani

newspaper, Mr. Gates wrote of the need to keep pressure on militants on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

``I know there is concern that an increased U.S. presence in Afghanistan will lead to more attacks in Pakistan,'' Mr. Gates wrote.

``It is important to remember that the Pakistani Taliban operates in collusion with both the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda, so it is impossible to separate these groups.''

``Only by pressuring all of these groups on both sides of the border will Afghanistan and Pakistan be able to rid themselves of this scourge for good -- to destroy those who promote the use of terror here and abroad,'' Mr. Gates said.

On of the goals of his trip, he said, is ``a broader strategic dialogue -- on the link between Afghanistan's stability and Pakistan's; stability in the broader region; the threat of extremism in Asia; efforts to reduce illicit drugs and their damaging global impact; and the importance of maritime security and cooperation.''

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