Afghan Rebels Find Aid in Pakistan, Musharraf Admits
KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 12 — Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, made a rare admission on Sunday before hundreds of Pakistani and Afghan delegates at a grand tribal assembly here, saying that support for militants emanating from Pakistan has caused problems for Afghanistan, and that his country should work to secure peace on its side of their mutual border.
“I realize this problem goes deeper; there is support from these areas,” General Musharraf told delegates on Sunday. “There is no doubt Afghan militants are supported from Pakistan soil. The problem that you have in your region is because support is provided from our side.” President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan nodded in agreement.
General Musharraf’s words, and his appearance at the final ceremony of the four-day meeting in Kabul, were a sharp turnaround for him.
In the past he has argued that the insurgency in Afghanistan is a homegrown problem and stems from dissatisfaction with the Afghan government. Mr. Karzai has often asserted that the source of the Taliban insurgency lies in training camps and madrasas, or religious schools, in Pakistan, and that the insurgents take sanctuary there.
Relations between the countries have deteriorated over the past two years as their presidents have often repeated the same accusations.
General Musharraf had abruptly canceled his appearance at the opening ceremony on Thursday of the meeting, known as a jirga, in what appeared to be a slight to Mr. Karzai, but it became apparent that he was consumed by domestic politics.
He had met with aides in Islamabad to consider imposing emergency rule in the period leading up to elections, drawing enormous diplomatic and political pressure, including a phone conversation with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at about 2 a.m. Thursday that seemed to help convince him that emergency rule was not necessary.
Pakistani news editors who met with General Musharraf on Saturday reported Sunday in The News, an Islamabad newspaper, that he had said the phone call was the third that Ms. Rice had placed to him that day, and that most of their discussion had been about Afghanistan and the jirga. At the end of the call, the report said, she asked about the rumors about emergency rule.
His presence at the final ceremony of the jirga lent weight to the proceedings. In a declaration at the end of their four-day assembly, convened to try to bring peace and stability to the region, the 650 delegates pledged to continue an “extended, tireless and persistent campaign against terrorism” and not to allow terrorist sanctuaries and training camps in their territory.
They agreed to establish a smaller jirga, consisting of 25 representatives from each country, to work on peace with the Taliban and other insurgents who are opposed to the governments of both countries and to continue a dialogue between the countries. They also agreed to urge their governments to combat the narcotics trade in the region.
The Peace Jirga, as it was called, was an initiative of President Karzai, aimed at reaching out to the tribes and populations of the troubled regions along the border of the two countries, where antigovernment insurgents hold sway. It was the first time that tribal leaders from both sides of the border region have gathered in such numbers for decades, and Mr. Karzai’s aim was to mobilize traditional structures to try to end the fighting and a drift toward extremism.
Taliban fighters, who fled Afghanistan after the United States invasion in 2001 that ousted the Taliban government, have regrouped in Pakistan. They have mounted a sustained insurgency in southern and eastern Afghanistan, in areas that were Taliban strongholds, and also have spread their influence in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
Afghanistan has for a long time accused Pakistan of harboring insurgents, and in recent months Pakistan has battled growing violence on its own soil from homegrown Islamist insurgents.
General Musharraf vowed that Pakistan did not seek to occupy Afghanistan and stressed that it wanted prosperity and economic development for the region.
While the peace delegates met, the violence continued. Three American soldiers and their civilian interpreter were killed by a roadside bomb in Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, the United States military said in a statement. A British soldier was killed and several others were wounded in an attack in southern Afghanistan on Saturday.
Taimoor Shah reported from Kabul, and Carlotta Gall from Islamabad, Pakistan.
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