President Obama met Wednesday with the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, beginning talks on forging a plan to fight the Taliban. Pamela Constable of the Washington Post updates the story from Islamabad.
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President Obama met face-to-face today with two vital allies in the fight against terrorism. The leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan came to Washington amid rising instability in both countries.
NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman has our lead story report.
The three-way summit at the White House underscored the grave security threats in Afghanistan and Pakistan. President Obama held the talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari after one-on-one sessions.
That was followed by a joint appearance. Mr. Obama said the talks were "extraordinarily productive."
BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: The road ahead will be difficult, and there will be more violence, and there will be setbacks. But let me be clear: The United States has made a lasting commitment to defeat al-Qaida, but also to support the democratically elected sovereign governments of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. That commitment will not waver, and that support will be sustained.
The summit came just a month after Mr. Obama called for a new, coordinated policy toward both nations.
Much of the focus today was on pressing Pakistan to abandon a three-month truce with the Taliban. And after meeting earlier with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others, President Zardari vowed to take action.
ASIF ALI ZARDARI, President of Pakistan: Our threat is common, and our responsibilities should be shared. I am here to assure you that we should share this burden with you all. For no matter how long it takes and what it takes, democracies will deliver. My democracy will deliver. The people of Pakistan stand with the people of United States and the people of Afghanistan.
As Zardari spoke, Pakistani forces stepped up new attacks in the Swat Valley and Buner district to stop militants from moving into Islamabad, the capital.
The military reported more than 50 insurgents were killed in the day's fighting, but there was word hundreds of Taliban reinforcements had poured in to seize police stations and government buildings in the region.
Back in Washington, Secretary Clinton said she's "quite impressed" with the Pakistani actions. She also voiced sorrow over a U.S. bombing raid in Afghanistan that allegedly killed civilians on Monday.
HILLARY CLINTON, Secretary of State: Any loss of life, any loss of innocent life, is particularly painful. And I want to convey to the people of both Afghanistan and Pakistan that, you know, we will work very hard with your governments and with your leaders to avoid the loss of innocent civilian life. And we deeply, deeply regret that loss.
The Associated Press released photos from the air strike in western Afghanistan showing villagers burying their dead. And the Red Cross confirmed finding dozens of bodies, including women and children.
But in Kabul, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army General David McKiernan said it's not clear American bombing was to blame. He said, "We have some other information that leads us to distinctly different conclusions."
Still, the issue of civilian deaths has been a major flashpoint in U.S.-Afghan relations. And President Karzai, who is running for re-election in August, made it a central issue in today's Washington meetings.
HAMID KARZAI, President of Afghanistan: And we hope we can work together towards reducing and eventually completely removing the possibilities of civilian casualties as we move ahead in our war against terrorism, or in our struggle against terrorism.
Karzai has accused Pakistan of lacking commitment in that struggle. Today, he said the Pakistani regime is a "neighbor" and "brother."
The U.S. buildup in Afghanistan also is moving forward, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived there today to review the situation.
Overall, U.S. forces in Afghanistan will more than double by the end of the year to 68,000. Training for the Afghan army also will be stepped up in order to double its size by 2011.