By Ayaz Gul
15 June 2008
Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has threatened to send troops into neighboring Pakistan to fight militants that have been launching cross-border attacks in his country. Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad the two allies in the U.S-led war against terrorism accuse each other of not doing enough to discourage militant activity.
|Afghan President Hamid Karzai gestures during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, 15 June 2008|
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai issued the forceful warning to the militants and to the Pakistani government at a news conference in Kabul. He says his country is ready to seek out militant leaders wherever they are.
The Afghan president specifically named Baitullah Mehsud, an al-Qaida-linked self-proclaimed Pakistani Taliban leader who is based in the South Waziristan border region . Mehsud and leaders of other extremist groups in Pakistan have in recent weeks vowed to send fighters across the border to help Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
Mr. Karzai says the fact that Pakistani militants cross into his country gives Afghanistan the right to retaliate and destroy their hideouts across the border.
"This means that Afghanistan has the right of self defense," Mr. Karzai said. "When they cross the territory from Pakistan to come and kill Afghans and kill coalition troops it exactly gives us the right to go back and do the same. Therefore, Baitullah Mehsud should know that we will go after him now and hit him in house. And we will get them and we will defeat them and we will avenge all that they have done in Afghanistan in the past so many years."
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani is reported as saying the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is too long to prevent people from crossing, even if his country deploys its entire army there. The Associated Press quotes him as saying that Pakistan does not interfere in anyone else's matters, and it will not allow anyone to interfere in Pakistan's territorial limits.
Afghan President Karzai's warning came two days after Taliban militants attacked a central jail in the southern city of Kandahar, freeing hundreds of suspected Taliban militants.
Last week, Pakistani officials said a U.S air strike destroyed one of their border security posts, killing 11 soldiers. The Pakistani government condemned the attack as an "unprovoked and cowardly" act and demanded a full investigation into the incident. The United States says its air strike was targeting militants in the area and Pakistan had been informed of the impending strike.
The new Pakistani government has recently launched a peace process in its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan to seek peace deals with militants, including Baitullah Mehsud.
U.S and Afghan officials have criticized the deals, saying they will help militants regroup to increase cross-border attacks. But Pakistan says it is negotiating with only those militants who are willing to give up their arms.