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US policy on anti-terrorism war in Pakistan and Afghanistan
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Pakistan Foreign Office on Thursday said Islamabad does not agree with the term Af-Pak, applied to Pakistan and Afghanistan under President Barack Obama administration's strategy in war on terror.

The report came in the wake of last week's rejection by Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari of the US strategy to link policy on Pakistan and Afghanistan in a bid to stamp out Taliban insurgency and bring stability to the region.

"Afghanistan and Pakistan are distinctly different countries and cannot be lumped together for any reason," Zardari said in an interview with the London-based Financial Times, on September 10.

Political observers in the region attach great significance with Islamabad's fresh assertions coming ahead of Zardari's upcoming visit to the United States and the scheduled meeting between President Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in New York later this month.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also scheduled to visit Islamabad next month. This obvious change in Islamabad's mood follows Pakistani media's sharp criticism of US drones attacks in the Pakistani tribal areas close to the Afghan border.

Recent reports in Pakistani newspapers also took exception to alleged activities of Black water, a private American security firm, which in recent years had shot up to notorious eminence after reports of its prisoners' abuses in Iraq.

Gen. Hamid Gul, the former chief of Pakistan's Inter Service Intelligence (ISI), has even claimed that Black water is operating in Islamabad and Peshawar cities with the changed name of Zee Securities.

However, Pakistan government circles sharply declined the reports.

"Pakistan's interior minister has already made it clear that there is no existence of Black water in Pakistan," Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit Khan said.

Basit said Pakistan will not allow US forces to carry out actions inside the country.

Addressing a function in Islamabad on Wednesday, the Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, said: "Pakistan condemns (US)drone attacks, considering them as violation of our sovereignty."

His remarks came simultaneous with a US drone attack in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region, in which, according to US intelligence sources, two important al-Qaida leaders were killed.

US President Barack Obama had, in his new strategy about Afghanistan, interlinked the issues of terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Last week, the US State Department reiterated its position defending its approach in this connection.

"The United States treats Afghanistan and Pakistan as two countries, but facing a common challenge presented by violent extremism," Ian Kelly, US State Department spokesman, said.

"Our efforts center on the president's goal to dismantle, disrupt, and defeat the extremist threat faced in both countries."

A report in the Rawalpindi-based English newspaper, The News, said earlier this month that Zardari and his senior officials "draw a distinction between a Pakistan with functioning institutions, diversified economy and a powerful national army, and Afghanistan, a state shattered by decades of conflict and ethnic divisions."

Under the new strategy, Washington had been talking of direct strikes of US forces inside Pakistan but the plan was later abandoned in the face of serious reaction from Islamabad.

Later, Washington and Islamabad agreed that only Pakistan Army will take action against militants inside the Pakistani territories.

While Pakistan has since the beginning been criticizing drone attacks, media reports suggest that Islamabad has accorded a tacit approval to these strikes. There have even been reports that the drones are flown from Pakistan air bases.

However, the latest outcry by Pakistani leaders shows that the country is now coming clear in opposition to the drone attacks.

Pakistan Prime Minister Gilani said "Pakistan will take up the issue (of drone strikes) with the United States, urging it to change its policy. Rather, Islamabad will ask US to transfer drone technology to Pakistan so it is able to take action if needed."

Regional analysts doubt if Pakistan's changed posture is a prelude to some major shift in its policy of extending cooperation to the United States in tackling insurgency in Afghanistan.

(Xinhua News Agency September 19, 2009)

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