Backlash from Taliban Attacks Pushes Pakistan to Act, Says US

Washington, Mar 15 (IANS): The backlash from Taliban attacks on places from Kashmir to Karachi has led to greater Pakistani cooperation with the US in the Afghanistan war, says the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"We feel clearly that we're working more closely together with them. And I think that's a very big step forward," Richard Holbrooke told CNN Sunday attributing recent Taliban arrests to increased communication between the two governments.

Pakistanis has also moved over 100,000 troops from their eastern border with India to the western border areas that the Taliban has long used as a safe haven, he said, citing it as another instance of a change in Pakistan's attitude toward terror groups in Afghnaistan.

"Well, I want to stress that they have moved over 100,000 troops from their eastern border against their giant neighbour to the western border to fight," Holbrooke said when asked if Pakistan was really willing to take the battle to the heart of the enemy's camp.

The relationship between the United States and Pakistan has seen a "significant improvement" under the Obama administration, Holbrooke said. "No government on earth has received more high level attention," he said citing the dozens of visits by top US officials to their counterparts in Pakistan.

"All of this, plus the recognition that the distinction between Afghan Taliban and Pakistan Taliban - if it ever existed - is eroded, has led the Pakistanis to take a very much more forward leaning position," Holbrooke said.

"Plus, above all, the backlash from the (Taliban's) attacks in places like Lahore or Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Kashmir, Karachi, have all contributed to an evolution."

Holbrooke cited the arrest of the Taliban's No. 2 official, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, as evidence of Pakistan's evolution from a country on the verge of collapse to a more stable political system now. Baradar is one of at least six Taliban leaders to be arrested in the past month, according to Pakistani officials. CNN cited analysts to suggest the arrests underscore a change in Pakistan's policy brought on by pressure from the US for higher levels of cooperation.

Asked about the state of Al Qaeda, Holbrooke said the terrorist organization that masterminded the Sep 11, 2001 attacks on the US has "blown it" through its excessive brutality and is now is under "fantastic pressure" since losing about half of its top 20 people in the past year.

Al Qaeda now was less an organization that plans attacks than one that seeks to inspire Muslims to jihad, he said suggesting the US administration takes the view that "they have, in a sense, blown it."





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