US, Pak poles apart in war against terror perception

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Washington, Feb 23 (ANI): The United States remains focused on eradicating al-Qaeda and Taliban hideouts from Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal areas, but Islamabad is worried about the future, particularly when US troops leave the area.

Three key allies in the war against terrorism - the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan - begin a series of crucial talks in Washington on Monday to devise a common strategy for fighting terrorists.

Pakistan fears that soon they will be forced to face a host of angry tribesmen and religious extremists without outside support and the Pakistani delegation will focus on the fight in FATA and the Swat truce, although more on Swat than FATA.

Afghanistan too wants to get rid of the Taliban militants, but doubts Pakistan's sincerity and seems unsure if the Americans will stay long enough to help Kabul extend its rule to other parts of Afghanistan.

Like Afghanistan, Pakistan has sent a high-powered delegation headed by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

There seems to be an agreement between Pakistani and US authorities that Pakistan alone cannot defeat the militants in FATA. It needs US military support.

Perhaps, that's why Pakistan has never officially opposed US drone attacks inside FATA, although publicly Islamabad condemns such attacks vociferously.

But the Pakistanis have made it obvious that US ground troops should not enter FATA because such an intrusion could seriously damage the government's image at home.

Despite these agreements, Pakistan seems to have serious concerns about the US strategy for FATA. The Pakistanis fear that once the Taliban and al-Qaeda militants are eradicated, the Americans will either quit the region or reduce their presence to the minimum, leaving Pakistan to face the consequences on its own.

The Americans have assured Pakistan that they are not going to quit and that they will stay as long as it takes to stabilize FATA, but given the history of US engagements abroad, the Pakistanis fear that the Americans may not be able to keep this promise.

US officials may also share with the Pakistanis their concerns about the alleged link between the ISI and the militants, a charge Pakistan vehemently denies.

The United States is likely to urge Pakistan to increase its anti-terrorism efforts, shift its focus away from India and on to Fata, to increase its cooperation with the US forces and to address Afghanistan's concerns. (ANI)

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