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Cheney, Musharraf Discuss War on Terrorism During Surprise Visit to Pakistan

  • Benjamin Sand

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney made an unannounced visit to Pakistan Monday, and warned of U.S. concerns that al Qaida militants might be regrouping inside Pakistan. VOA correspondent Benjamin Sand reports from Islamabad.

Few details of the discussions were made public but Pakistani officials said Vice President Dick Cheney and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf reviewed efforts to improve security along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.

Mr. Cheney visited Pakistan amid growing international concerns that the al Qaida terror network has regrouped and Taleban insurgents are preparing a major new offensive in Afghanistan.

Both militant forces are believed to be using Pakistan's isolated tribal regions to mount cross-border raids against U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces.

But Pakistan insists it is doing everything it can to secure the border and help defeat the Islamic extremists.

Speaking to reporters Monday afternoon, Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri rejected allegations that Pakistan is ignoring evidence of new militant activity inside its borders.

"Pakistan's commitment to the elimination of al Qaida has been recognized," he said. "Any intelligence lead that we get, we follow, that is where the success comes about, by cooperation."

The White House remains a staunch public defender of President Musharraf's record on the war against terrorism.

But Mr. Cheney's visit comes as signs increase that Washington and its allies are losing patience.

The dominant Democratic Party in the U.S. Congress is considering legislation to cut military aid to Pakistan unless General Musharraf steps up his fight against militants.

On Monday the New York Times reported President Bush is looking to send a tough new message to Pakistan to help spur greater action.

The Pentagon has announced plans to deploy an additional 3,000 troops to Afghanistan to help repel any possible Taleban offensive.

London also plans to send more troops to Afghanistan even as it withdraws many of its forces from Iraq.

The British Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, was also in Islamabad Monday, to brief General Musharraf on the troop increase.

Beckett told reporters afterwards that she underscored Britain's commitment to helping Pakistan reinforce security along the border.

"I have also taken the opportunity to recognize the steps Pakistan has taken against the Taleban to secure the border with Afghanistan and explore what further cooperation between us could strengthen those steps," she explained.

There are already approximately 45,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, including more than 27,000 U.S. forces and 5,000 from Great Britain.

Last year was Afghanistan's deadliest since the U.S.-led coalition ousted the hard-line Islamist Taleban government in 2001. Most of the fighting in the past year occurred in Afghan provinces along the Pakistan border.

Mr. Cheney flew to Afghanistan after his meeting in Islamabad. He spent the past week conferring with leaders in Japan and Australia, before going to Oman on Sunday and then Pakistan.

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