Pakistan rejects ‘safe haven’ claim
US official says al-Qaeda and Taliban are “sheltering in its lawless frontier areas”.
Khan Sherpao, Pakistan’s interior minister, said that the US intelligence agencies had not shared any “specific intelligence on the whereabouts of al-Qaeda or the Taliban”.
“We always act swiftly whenever any intelligence is shared with us. There are no al-Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan.”
A lawless frontier
In Washington on Thursday, Negroponte said that despite Pakistan’s vital role in the “war on terrorism”, leaders of both al-Qaeda and Afghanistan’s former ruling Taliban are sheltering in its lawless frontier areas, largely beyond reach of US or Pakistani soldiers.
|“Eliminating the safe haven that the Taliban and other extremists have found in Pakistan’s tribal areas is not sufficient to end the insurgency in Afghanistan, but it is necessary”
John Negroponte, Director, US National Intelligence
In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Negroponte said: “Eliminating the safe haven that the Taliban and other extremists have found in Pakistan’s tribal areas is not sufficient to end the insurgency in Afghanistan, but it is necessary.”
Nato and the Afghan government also say Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters are launching attacks on their forces in Afghanistan from neighbouring Pakistan.
Violence rose sharply in Afghanistan in 2006, with fighting killing about 4,000 people in what was the deadliest year since the US-led coalition swept the Taliban from power in 2001.
Middle East analogy
Aslam, the Pakistan spokeswoman, acknowledged that “there may be al-Qaeda elements” in Pakistan. But she said their presence was just like “in the Middle East or other world countries”.
Richard Boucher, the visiting US assistant secretary of state, paid tribute to Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts, but said more action was required on both sides of the border.
“There continues to be a high rate of cross-border activity,” he said after meeting with Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, and other top officials.