No foreign troops would be deployed in Pakistan: Biden

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Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Jan 12 (PTI) US Vice President Joe Bidentoday assured Pakistan''s top leadership that no foreign troopswould be deployed in the country to fight militancy asWashington fully respects Islamabad''s sovereignty.

Biden gave the assurance about "no boots on theground" during parleys with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani,an unnamed official privy to the meeting was quoted as sayingby state-run APP news agency.

The US also acknowledged as "legitimate" Pakistan''s"apprehensions about foreign intervention throughAfghanistan", the official said.

The meeting was held against the background of USplans to reduce troops in Afghanistan and provided anopportunity to Biden to exchange views on key issues withPakistan''s civil and military leadership.

The two leaders also discussed whether Taliban wouldbe given a role in any future set-up in Afghanistan if theydisassociated themselves from Al-Qaeda, the official said.

US strategy in Afghanistan and the eventual pullout ofAmerican and allied troops figured prominently in Biden''smeetings with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime MinisterGilani and army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, sources toldPTI.

Biden arrived in Islamabad on a day-long visit aftermeeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

Pakistani leaders emphasized the need to jointly charta course of action to bring peace and stability to war-tornAfghanistan and the region.

The unnamed official told APP that the meeting betweenGilani and Biden was "extremely useful" as both sidesdiscussed how to proceed on matters related to Afghanistan.

"The objective was to have a clear understanding ofwhat the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan want, and how they canproceed towards achieving greater regional peace," theofficial said.

The two sides agreed that a "strategic alignment" isneeded between Islamabad, Kabul and Washington to reach apragmatic solution ahead of the first deadline of July 2011 tomove towards an Afghan-led security apparatus.

The US was interested in finding out "Pakistan''sbottom line" and its "intentions" regarding Afghanistan, theofficial said.

Pakistan made it clear that there should be "no newgreat game" in Afghanistan and that it does not expect anycountry to indulge in a "proxy war or measures" that impactthe sovereignty of Pakistan or Afghanistan, the official said.

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Pakistan rejected the US assertion that "certain elements" were operating from areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and said weapons and financial support werecoming into the country and adversely impacting the securitysituation, the official said.

Pakistan urged the US to look for a pragmatic solutioninstead of trading charges.

Vice President Biden sought Pakistan''s views on US-Afghanistan ties and Prime Minister Gilani said Islamabadwants normal state-to-state relations and that stability andsocietal equilibrium should be restored in the neighbouringcountry.

"No formula from abroad can resolve the Afghan issue,"Gilani said.

Pakistan is willing to work for building the capacityof Afghan police and security forces for counter-terrorismduties.

Pakistan wants Afghans to be masters of their destinyand is willing to facilitate the peace process in Afghanistan,Gilani said.

During his meeting with Biden, President Asif AliZardari called on the US to provide Pakistan drone technologyso that its armed forces could act on their own againstmilitants.

He also emphasised the need of the internationalcommunity''s support and understanding for the war onterrorism.

Zardari said US drone attacks "undermined the nationalconsensus" for the war on militancy and reiterated Pakistan''scall for transfer of drone technology.

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