PERTH, July 25: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday that Pakistan needed to do more to help curb the “flow of militants across its border into Afghanistan as the Taliban had increased terrorist activity”.
Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith backed Rice’s call, saying the porous northwest frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan was the “current international hotbed of terrorism” and could not be regarded as a bilateral border issue.
“What we need to do is to look hard at how the Taliban (are) regrouping, why the Taliban (are) fighting in the way that they are now,” Rice told a news conference in Perth, Western Australia.
“They generally are taken on and defeated pretty handily when they come in actual military formation. But there is an uptick in the terrorism, not just against forces but the Afghan people,” she said. “In that regard everybody needs to do more, but Pakistan does need to do more.
“We understand that the northwest frontier area is difficult, but militants cannot be allowed to organise there and plan there and engage across the border.”
US officials have long been frustrated at what they view as Pakistan’s failure to do enough to combat militants along its border with Afghanistan, where the United States has some 35,000 troops, many of whom are fighting the Taliban.
Pakistan said on Wednesday it would not allow militants to plot attacks on its soil, nor let foreign troops take military action on its territory.
The declaration by the ruling coalition came amid growing fears that the United States might take unilateral action against the so-called “Al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries” in tribal areas on the Afghan border.
Smith agreed that Pakistan needed to do more to close its porous border but added that Islamabad also needed to be engaged in a dialogue with the international community and given assistance.
“There is no doubt that the current international hotbed of terrorism is in that area, is in the Pakistan-Afghan border area,” he told the news conference.
“We are very concerned about the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area. We don’t believe that that can be regarded simply as a bilateral matter between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“It is an issue which has regional and international community consequences.”
Australia has some 1,000 troops in Afghanistan and has lost six soldiers in Afghanistan since 2002, two of them this year. Around 40 other soldiers have been wounded.
Rice laid a wreath at a Perth war memorial and also chatted with the families of Australian special forces killed in Afghanistan.---Reuters