Washington, June 26 : The United States has once again expressed doubts over a Pakistani pledge to fight militants along its border with Afghanistan amid escalating violence in that region.
U.S. Army Gen. David D. McKiernan, who recently took command of NATO forces in Afghanistan, told The Washington Times in an interview published Wednesday that a key goal is to build a cooperative relationship among Pakistan, Afghanistan and the coalition forces he leads.
Pakistani leaders acknowledge that Taliban and al Qaeda militants are finding refuge in its lawless tribal belt. However, they have angrily rejected allegations that its security agencies are colluding with militants.
In its strongest message to militants since it came to office in the spring, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's Cabinet vowed Wednesday not to "allow its territory to be used against other countries, especially Afghanistan."
The Bush administration cautiously welcomed the Pakistani statement while expressing scepticism over Pakistani talks with militants themselves.
"Politicians say, 'We have a policy of negotiating with the tribes, not the militants.' And yet, what we've seen is negotiations with Sufi Mohammad in Swat and Baitullah Mehsud in Waziristan," Richard A. Boucher, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, said in reference to militant leaders.
"Certainly, the approach of saying, 'We will work with the tribes to kick out the militants,' is a better approach than going directly to negotiate with the militants. That seems to be the approach they are adopting, not one that they have implemented successfully yet," the paper quoted Boucher as telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.