LEADERS BLAME EACH OTHER FOR THE NEW RISE OF AL QAEDA AND THE TALEBAN IN THEIR REGION
UNITY OF KEY 'WAR ON TERROR' ALLIES CRUMBLING
President Bush was no doubt hoping the arrival in the US of two chief 'War On Terror' allies - Pakistan's President Musharraf and Afghanistan's President Karzai - would allow him to publicly pow-wow on all the great progress the three countries had made in rolling back the threat of the Taliban and the sprawling influence of Al Qaeda.
But Musharraf and Karzai both arrived in the US days before the big White House meetings and dinner, and used that spare time to bounce around key US media where they slammed and ripped and shredded each other's efforts to fight the war as Bush demands.
Musharraf views Karzai as weak and mocked him for hiding out inside his guarded palace near Kabul, terrified of venturing outside in case he is assassinated. Karzai, meanwhile, hammered Musharraf for cutting a recent 'peace deal' with the Taliban in the border regions of Pakistan, and offering brutal Islamic militants the chance to "live in peace" if they promised not to launch anymore attacks, particularly against targets in Pakistan.
Afghan officials allege that Pakistan lets Taliban militants hide out and launch attacks into Afghanistan. Musharraf says Karzai has bad information and notes that Pakistan has deployed 80,000 troops along the porous border.And this update of the fighting Afghanistan that has set these two leaders against each other :
Karzai says Musharraf turns a blind eye to hatred and extremism being bred at Islamic schools in Pakistan. At one point, Musharraf said Karzai is behaving "like an ostrich," refusing to acknowledge the truth and trying to shore up his political standing at home.
The Taliban militants have regrouped and launched an offensive earlier this year whose strength and organization took Afghan and U.S. officials by surprise.Here are some highlights of the media coverage, explaining these issues further. First up, how the media-public meeting between Bush, Karzai and Musharraf went down.
They have adopted methods commonly used by militants in Iraq: suicide bombings, ambushes and beheadings. Illegal opium production has risen yearly despite billions spent to suppress it, and Afghanistan is now the source of more than 90 percent of the world's supply.
From the Los Angeles Times :
President Bush appealed to the bickering presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan on Wednesday to put aside their differences and "strategize together" over dinner on ways to defeat the common enemy of terrorism.Here in more detail are the attacks Musharraf and Karzai launched at each other in the days leading up to the White House meeting.
Standing between Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Bush emphasized "the need to cooperate, to make sure that people have got a hopeful future" in both countries.
Karzai calls Musharraf "my brother," but after months of sniping that put the White House in the middle of a spat between two of its closest allies, Bush decided it was time to bring the leaders together.
Judging by the body language Bush himself had said he would be watching, there were plenty of tensions to overcome over a light dinner of soup, sea bass and salad. The meal was billed as an "iftar," a meal that breaks the daytime fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Musharraf and Karzai are Muslims.
The Afghan and Pakistani leaders stood stiffly on either side of Bush during a brief Rose Garden appearance before they ate.
"I look forward to having dinner with friends of mine who don't happen to share the same faith I do but nevertheless share the same outlook for a more hopeful world," Bush said in the brief Rose Garden remarks before dinner.
"It's very important for the people in Pakistan and in Afghanistan to know that America respects religion, and we respect the right for people to worship the way they see fit," he said.
Musharraf remained expressionless during his host's brief remarks, while Karzai repeatedly nodded agreeably. Karzai and Musharraf never touched, each taking Bush's hand before turning to go inside, but not each other's.
Musharraf took the opportunity to slam Karzai, again, during an interview with CNN :
"He is not oblivious. He knows everything. But he's purposely denying, turning a blind eye, like an ostrich. He doesn't want to tell the world what is the facts, for his own personal reasons....he is trying to hide that everything is happening from Pakistan.Karzai, in turn, blamed Musharraf for Pakistan's open support of the Taliban, and claimed this support was the reason why terrorism was on the rise in Afghanistan.
"We are getting late. All this that I read is what is happening in Afghanistan in all the provinces. This is a movement going on. This is a Pashtun uprising by the people going on."
"If he doesn't understand this, he will keep going on, and we are going to lose in Afghanistan..."
He was openly suspicious of Pakistan's recent 'peace deal' with Taliban militants in the border regions between their two countries, and in neighbouring Waziristan :
"The most important element of the agreement for us is that no terrorists should be allowed to cross into Afghanistan," Karzai said, suggesting clearly that Pakistan is the sanctuary for terrorists. "We will back any move that will deny terror sanctuaries in Waziristan or the troubled territories of Pakistan."Karzai had plenty more to say on the controversy in an address he gave before the three leaders got together at the White House.
"For all of us in the world to be safer, we must remove the need for groups, organizations or state entities -- and here I am beginning to be very careful in my remarks -- of reliance on religious radicalism as instruments of policy.The air will not clear anytime soon between Musharraf and Karzai, and it is extremely likely that the Taliban will continue to consolidate its positions and influence over larger and larger regions of Afghanistan in the coming months, particularly now they have the green light from Pakistan to regroup and plan new strategies and attacks from inside territory ruled by one of the US' chief allies in the 'War On Terror'.
"The increased attacks on Afghanistan and the cross-border activities; the loss of U.S., Canadian soldiers; the burning of mosques and attacks on children ... is the continuing of reliance on radicalism as an instrument of policy.
"Young, poor, unaware, uneducated children from the poorest of families are taken and preached hatred against me, against you, against any other person.
"Military action in Afghanistan alone is not going to free us of terrorism. Going to the source of terrorism -- where they get trained, motivated, financed and deployed -- is necessary now."
A truly remarkable series of events, and setbacks, in the Fourth World War.
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