ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -Pakistan on Sunday angrily rejected remarks by a senior U.S. security official that Islamabad was not doing enough to help flush out Taliban and al Qaeda leaders from its territory.
U.S. State Department Coordinator for counter-terrorism Henry Crumpton said in Kabul on Saturday that most of the Taliban and al Qaeda leadership had found safe haven in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt that borders Afghanistan.
While the United States did not know where Osama bin Laden was hiding, the al Qaeda leader was probably on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border, he said.
Pakistani military spokesmen, Major-General Shuakat Sultan, denounced the remarks.
“He (Crumpton) came here and met Pakistani officials and praised Pakistan’s role in the war on terror. He did not mention these things.
“But, going there and making such a statement is a highly irresponsible act. We condemn such media projections,” Sultan told Reuters.
Pakistan is a vital ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism but U.S. and Afghan officials often complain that militants were able to gather support among conservative Pashtun tribes living in the border region and launch attacks inside Afghanistan from the safety of Pakistan’s tribal territory.
Pakistan rejects these accusations, saying it has deployed nearly 80,000 troops along the long, porous frontier to curb cross-border movements and to fight militants hiding in the rugged region.
More than 300 militants and around 56 soldiers were killed in battles in the troubled North Waziristan tribal region in recent months alone.
Hundreds more were killed in fighting in the neighbouring South Waziristan in 2004.
Pakistan says the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan and Afghan forces should do more on their side to curb militants activities.
Sultan said U.S. officials should pass on information about the whereabouts of bin Laden to Pakistani authorities instead of making statements through the media.
“He (Osama) can’t be caught by such statements. They should share intelligence with us, if they have, so we can take action.”
On Saturday, militants distributed leaflets in the name of bin Laden in two towns of North Waziristan, calling for the assassination of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
Musharraf has survived several attempts on his life by Pakistani militant groups since siding with the U.S.-led war on terrorism.