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All terrorist networks have safe haven in Pakistan: Gates

Source: PTI
March 02, 2009 11:57 IST
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All major terrorist networks have a safe haven in Pakistan to operate, creating a big "problem" to the United States' war against terror, Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said.

"I think it's the safe haven on the Pakistani side of the border, not just for the Al-Qaeda but for the Taliban, the Hakani network, for Gulbaddin Hekmatyar and other affiliated groups that are all working together -- they're separate groups, but they're all working together, and I think as long as they have a safe haven to operate there, it's going to be a problem for us," Gates told the MSNBC news channel in an interview.

"Afghanistan, after all, 20 years ago I was on the other side of that border as deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency fighting the Soviets, and we had the safe haven in Pakistan, and let me tell you, it made a big difference," he said in his interview on Sunday.

Gates, who met with Pakistani army chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani last week in Washington, said the Pakistan leadership now knows that what is going on in their tribal region is very dangerous for their country.

"I believe, based on my talks with the Pakistanis in Washington this past week, that they clearly now understand that what's going on up there in that border area is as big a risk to the stability of Pakistan as it is a problem for us in Afghanistan," Gates said.

The defence secretary said Afghanistan is now unlikely to be a safe haven for the terrorists as long as the US and its allied forces are in the country.

"Well, as long as we're in Afghanistan and as long as the Afghan government has the support of dozens of countries who are providing military support, civilian support, in addition to us, we are providing a level of stability in Afghanistan that at least prevents it from being a safe haven of terrorists who plot against the United States and the Europeans and others," Gates said.

The Obama administration is currently having a review of its Afghan policies, in which all stake holders including the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, besides its allies in Europe are being consulted, he said, adding delegations of Pakistan and Afghanistan were in the US last week to participate in the discussion.

"We're talking to the Europeans, to our allies, we're bringing in an awful lot of people to get different points of view as we go through this review of what our strategy ought to be," Gates said.

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