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Negroponte: Pakistan Must Address Taliban ‘Sanctuary’ January 18, 2007

Posted by notapundit in US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–The head of U.S. spy operations said Thursday that Pakistan must do more to address the “sanctuary” that Taliban fighters enjoy in Pakistan before security can improve in Afghanistan.

National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said in testimony before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee that “we all agree that the question of a sanctuary for the Taliban in Pakistan is problematic.”

“There’s a recognition that unless and until something is done to more definitively address that question, it’s always going to be more of a challenge to address the security problems that arise in Afghanistan,” Negroponte said. “This is a problem that we’re actively working.”

Afghan and U.S. officials say Taliban fighters have been resurgent in Afghanistan’s south and the east, along the Pakistan border. The fighters, they say, are hiding in Pakistan’s border regions. Pakistan, a key ally of the U.S. in its campaign against terrorism, says it does all it can to curb militancy.

U.S. officials discuss the problem with Pakistan with “great, great regularity and more work needs to be done on that,” Negroponte told lawmakers. He added that Pakistan “over the past several years, they have put a lot of al-Qaida and foreign fighters out of commission during that period of time. So I have no doubt whatsoever about their commitment to the war.”

Negroponte and Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, caused a stir last week with blunt words for Pakistan during testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Maples testified then that Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan “remains a haven for al-Qaida’s leadership and other extremists.”

Rep. Mike Rogers told Negroponte Thursday that he considered a September deal between the Pakistani government and tribal elders of the North Waziristan region, on the border with Afghanistan, a “fundamental failure” and a probable detriment to U.S. security.

“It just didn’t work,” he said of the deal by which the tribes agreed to halt attacks on Pakistani forces and expel foreign fighters. U.S. officials have said the tribes have failed to abide by many of the deal’s terms.

Negroponte said “it’s one of these issues that is right on the front burner, as far as we’re concerned, in terms of security preoccupations along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. It’s a subject that we discuss frequently in our dialogue with the government of Pakistan.” He offered to provide lawmakers more details in a meeting closed to the public.

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