US wants Pak pressure on Taliban to get Osama
WASHINGTON (NNI): Disagreeing with Pakistan's notion that it does not enjoy much influence on Afghanistan's Taliban rulers, Washington strongly believes that Islamabad could do more to sway the Islamic student militia to turn over Osama bin Laden for trial.During series of meetings with a group of visiting Pakistani journalists in Washington and New York, senior State Department officials still believe Pakistan can exert pressure on Taliban to address to the US concerns over Osama's alleged network in Afghanistan.
A group of 11 Pakistani journalists was informed about what the American officials describe as potential threat to the US citizens and interests by bin Laden and his followers across the world, who they claim are operating from the war-ravaged Afghanistan.
Senator Sam Brownback, whose amendment helped Pakistan in getting $20 million for education sector, also thinks Islamabad has the potential to urge Taliban to stop harboring bin Laden and his Al-Qaida (The Base) organization.
Brownback, member of the Foreign Relations Committee, agreed with other US officials in saying that Pakistan's continued "support" to Taliban has bad impact on Islamabad-Washington ties.
Pakistan has, however, its own point and says it cannot influence Taliban to do this or that. Islamabad supports direct contact between Taliban and the United States to settle dispute. Pakistan has always offered help to the two sides to engage each other.
Some Pakistani officials point out to the country's own differences with the Taliban authorities over the presence of several Pakistanis, who are wanted in Pakistan for their alleged involvement in sectarian killings.
A list of more than 30 such wanted people has been handed over to the Taliban government by Pakistan's Interior Ministry but there has so far been no progress.
"There is great frustration with Afghanistan. There are US hopes that this is an area in which Pakistan will cooperate with the United States, but very little optimism that things are moving in that direction," Dr Rodney Jones, president, Policy Architects International, told Pakistani journalists.
Recognizing Taliban as a major force in Afghanistan, some of the US officials were of the opinion that the Islamic militia could not survive for a long time if Pakistan withdraws its support.
They referred to a recent survey conducted by the United States through its own "quite credible" sources, which suggests decline in Taliban support among the Afghans.
According to the survey, 49 per cent of Afghans support the Rome-based former Afghan monarch, Zahir Shah, while 11 per cent back Taliban's supreme leader Mulla Mohammad Omar. The American officials seemed upbeat over the outcome of the survey but are helpless to do away with the Taliban Islamic movement.
But they were also not happy with Ahmed Shah Masood, leader of the anti-Taliban alliance. "Both the Taliban movement and Masood cannot ensure peace and are unable to run the country's affairs," a US official said.
The US officials said they have never refused to talk with the Taliban, and that the two sides have been holding dialogue for years both in Islamabad and the United States.
But they complained that Taliban have never addressed to the concern by Washington over "terrorism threats coming from bin Laden network in Taliban-controlled areas." "When Taliban took Kabul we wanted to engage them.
But they went in a wrong way," Jeffery Lunstead, Director, Office of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh Affairs in the State Department Bureau of South Asian Affairs, said. "We will like to work with Pakistan to bring stable, broad-based government in Afghanistan," Jaffery said.
Asked why the United States forces Pakistan to get Osama expelled from Afghanistan, he said: "We have not said that Pakistan's control or force Taliban to expel Osama bin Laden.
Pakistan cannot say to Mulla Omar to expel Osama." A member of the US National Security Council told Pakistani journalists that the United States has great concern about Afghan conflict.
"This is a serious issue and being reviewed and will be looked into seriously," said the official, who requested that he should not be identified. He said the United States has talked to the Taliban but a lot of differences are there.
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