Afghan-Pakistan border security must be bolstered: NATO chief


LONDON: September 18, 2008. (AFP) - All sides need to help bolster security along the Pakistan-Afghan border, where recent US incursions have strained US-Pakistan ties, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Thursday.

Speaking as NATO defence ministers gathered for informal talks, he underlined the need for closer contacts between NATO and the Pakistani government, which is angry at the US military action. "Clearly, it is up to Pakistan to define its own security interests," he said in an address at a security think-tank shortly before the start of the two-day NATO talks in London. "We all need to do a better job together of monitoring and controlling the border, and we need to intensify the work of our so-called tri-partite commission," he added, referring to representatives from the two countries and NATO. "The election of a new Pakistani president gives me hope that this is the right time for a new approach." US and Afghan officials say Pakistan's tribal areas are a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who sneaked into the rugged terrain after the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001. Missile strikes targeting militants in Pakistan in recent weeks have been linked to US-led coalition forces or CIA drones based in Afghanistan, seriously straining ties between Islamabad and Washington. De Hoop Scheffer added: "Success in Afghanistan also means stepping up our political engagement with her neighbours, notably Pakistan." "We need to establish a permanent dialogue between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the international community." He conceded that Afghanistan seemed to "offer a limitless supply" of bad news stories, but insisted that "we have no reason to be so pessimistic... our key objective of creating a safe and secure Afghanistan that is able to look after itself remains entirely within our grasp." He said the Taliban "continue to suffer heavy losses" and "have not been able to strangle Kabul". "ISAF will not be defeated, neither tactically nor operationally," De Hoop Scheffer said, referring to the NATO-led multi-national force in Afghanistan. "And our training of the Afghan National Army is now enabling that new force to engage alongside our own -- with increasing success, and with popular support. "As the ANA expands, it will increasingly be able to deny our opponents their freedom of movement, hold the gains we make, and ultimately allow Afghanistan to take responsibility for its own security."

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