The newly elected government in Pakistan is being confronted with a rise in insurgent attacks and a Taliban that is increasing in strength along the volatile Afghan border. Two experts discuss the latest outbreaks of violence.
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First lady Laura Bush's trip to Afghanistan this weekend — her third since the fall of the Taliban — was shrouded in secrecy. Its goal: to highlight the progress since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
But that progress in the region has been uneven. Three British soldiers were killed in the southern Afghan province of Helmand yesterday. And today in Pakistan, suspected militants killed four policemen near Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar.
The rise in violence was the focus of meetings held by the foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan last week.
Afghan leaders have long voiced concern over talks between the Pakistani government and Islamic militants in the border areas of northwest Pakistan. Pakistan's foreign minister, Mehmood Qureshi, stressed the talks would not mean security in the region would suffer.
SHAH MEHMOOD QURESHI, foreign minister, Pakistan: We are engaging with that element that is peace-loving, and wants stability in their own regions, and want to live a normal, peaceful life.
We will not engage with terrorists. We will not compromise with terrorists. And those who will pick up arms and guns are neither your friends nor our friends.
Pakistan's new prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, has pushed for the talks to continue. He leads Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party. He assumed power in March after striking a deal with the party of former prime minister and Bhutto rival Nawaz Sharif.
Just seven weeks later, Sharif withdrew from the coalition, raising new doubts about Pakistan's stability. Sharif blamed the split on continued conflict over how to reinstate judges removed by President Pervez Musharraf when he declared martial law last year.
But the issue that's drawn the most international criticism and dominated last week's talks is negotiating with Islamic militants.
The U.S. and NATO have pressed Pakistan to do more to fight terror along the border and blame the spike in violence in Afghanistan on Pakistan's deal with the militants. Last year was the deadliest year yet for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.
Today, the RAND Corporation think tank said Pakistani intelligence agents and paramilitary forces have helped train Taliban insurgents. RAND also warned the U.S. will face crippling, long-term consequences in Afghanistan if Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan are not eliminated.
General Dan McNeill is the outgoing American commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan.
GEN. DAN MCNEILL, former commander, International Security Assistance Force: I don't believe there is sufficient pressure on the terrorists and the insurgents in the sanctuaries that they have that are just out of reach of the ISAF forces. I think that perhaps is the most significant factor.
We've also monitored and recorded in the past what happens when there's peace negotiations, so-called peace negotiations, with these terrorists and extremists inside those sanctuaries. And when there has been, there has been a spike in the untoward events on our side of the border.
NATO warned attacks were up 50 percent compared to a year ago, and U.S. officials warn this year could set new records.