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US, Pakistan talk strategy in Indian Ocean

August 28, 2008 14:57 IST

Top US and Pakistani army commanders had a highly unusual secret meeting on board an American aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean to discuss how to combat the escalating violence along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The leading actors in the day long conference were Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pakistan Army [Images] Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the New York Times reported.

The paper said the meeting had been convened on Wednesday by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

While officials of the two allies offered few details on Wednesday about what was decided or even discussed at the meeting -- including any new strategies, tactics, weapons or troop deployment -- the star-studded list of participants and an extreme secrecy surrounding the talks, New York Times said the talks underscored how gravely the two nations regarded the growing militant threat.

Mullen and Kayani were joined on board the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln by Gen David H Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq who will soon become the senior officer in the middle-east, David D Mckiernan, NATO'S top commander in Afghanistan and Admiral Eric T Olson head of the US special operations command.

Also present were Lt Gen Martin E Dempsey, acting commander of American forces in the Middle-East and Rear Admiral Michael A LeFever, the senior American military liaison to Pakistan.

Gen Kayani was accompanied by his top key commanders. The Times said the meeting was prompted by a series of ominous developments: continuing political turmoil in

Pakistan, increasingly deadly attacks against Afghan and western targets in Afghanistan and American complaints that Pakistani military has been ineffective in stemming the flow of militants who launch attacks in Afghanistan from Pakistani havens.

The mid-sea meeting of top commanders from America, NATO and Pakistan comes in the wake of US officials recently pointing to two major Taliban [Images] attacks in Afghanistan last week -- a coordinated assault by 10 suicide bombers of a major American base in Khost and another by 100 insurgents who ambushed and killed 10 elite French Paratroopers in Sarobi.

'The meeting was mainly to continue to discuss operations against extremist in the border region and to work together to find better ways to solve these problems,' an American official was quoted by the paper as saying.

Admiral Muller had met Gen Kayani just a month back in Islamabad [Images] where the Indian Ocean sojourn was set up, the official said. During the meeting the American commander had bluntly warned Kayani that Pakistan had to do more to combat militants in the restive tribal areas.

The gathering on board the Abraham Lincoln was less confrontational in tone, aides said.

'The meeting was to help clear up the situation, get an understanding of the issues and look for a way forward,' the paper quoted a senior Pakistani officer as saying.

The New York Times said that military officials from both the countries declined to say whether commanders had reached any new agreement to allow US special operations forces greater access to Pakistan's tribal areas to conduct missions to kill or capture top leaders of Al-Qaeda [Images] who have found sanctuary there.

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