Pakistan and Afghan Presidents meet to Discuss Security
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Pakistan's president has pledged to help Afghanistan combat its growing Taliban insurgency. Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf is in the midst of a two-day visit to Kabul, meeting with Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai. The two leaders, who've often been at odds, vowed to work together to crush the Taliban and their al-Qaida supporters.
Kim Barker is the Chicago Tribune's South Asia correspondent and she's in Kabul. And tell us, before his visit to Kabul, President Musharraf signed a peace deal with pro-Taliban militants who are operating in the tribal regions in Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan. Talk to us about that agreement and why he signed it.
Ms. KIM BARKER (South Asia Correspondent, Chicago Tribune): This deal has been in the works actually for two months between the Pakistani government and pro-Taliban militants in the North Waziristan area. Basically, the Pakistani government felt that this was the only way that it could crack down on al-Qaida and other militants.
This agreement is supposed to prevent these people from coming across the border into Afghanistan, from attacking Pakistani military, and, in general, it's supposed to be a cease-fire on both sides.
MONTAGNE: But of course critics have said, really, what it could do is provide a safe haven for the militants.
Ms. BARKER: Obviously. But what Musharraf said yesterday is that the government really has to think outside the box on this particular issue. It has to try this. And what he says is that the agreement is with the tribal elders in the region and that if anybody goes outside this agreement, it's up to the tribal elders. And this goes to the whole ethos along the border areas there.
The Pashtuns subscribe to a tribal way of life in that the elders make decisions for the entire region and the elders have ultimate say-so as to what is supposed to happen and what is not supposed to happen. So the theory is that if these tribal elders have signed this agreement, then actually people will abide by it.
MONTAGNE: And President Karzai gave a sort of cautious thumbs-up to the agreement.
Ms. BARKER: He kind of gave a cautious thumbs-up to the whole meeting. Both leaders are going to Washington soon, and they'll be meeting with President Bush to talk about the issue further.
But from my understanding there's been many countries that have been putting pressure on Pakistan and on Musharraf to do more against the Taliban, especially since the NATO countries have come into Afghanistan and taken over control of the south. Now they're seeing all the insurgents coming across the border.
Of course, Musharraf has a very valid explanation that it's difficult to control these tribal areas which are not used to having any sort of government control. So it's just going to be, basically, wait and see what happens, but this is definitely a positive sign from both countries.
MONTAGNE: Kim, thank you very much. Kim Barker is a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, speaking to us from Kabul, Afghanistan.
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