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US to work with Pak on effective counter-terrorism methods

November 09, 2012 14:52 IST

The United States is looking forward to 'developing effective counter-terrorism methods' with Pakistan to address the contentious issue of drone strikes in Pakistan's restive tribal belt, top American envoy to the country has said.

"We look to developing a deep counter-terrorism relationship with the government of Pakistan," Richard Olson, the new American envoy to Pakistan, said.

"We think that we face a common threat from Al Qaeda and other extremist organisations (and) we want to work with the government of Pakistan on developing effective counter-terrorism methods," Olson said.

He was responding to a question on a Pakistani TV talk show about Pakistan's concerns about drone attacks, which Islamabad has described as counter-productive and a violation of international laws. The envoy did not give details.

Dozens of Al Qaeda and Taliban commanders have been killed in the US drone strikes, including former Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baithullah Mehsud.

The Pakistan government has long been accused of providing tacit support to the missile strikes by the Central Intelligence Agency-operated spy planes but it has recently begun opposing the attacks due to criticism from sections of the public.

Responding to another question about the long-standing US demand for Pakistan to launch military operations in the lawless North Waziristan region, Olson said, "Any decisions about operations in North Waziristan Agency would be entirely up to the government of Pakistan. That is a decision for Pakistan to make."

The US, he said, shares the concern of the government of Pakistan, which has made more sacrifices than any other country in the war on terror as over 40,000 people have been killed by extremism.

After a 'difficult year in 2011' in bilateral relations, there have been 'significant improvements' in Pakistan-US ties, including the reopening of supply routes to  Afghanistan earlier this year following a US apology for the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a cross-border North Atlantic Treaty Organisation air strike last year, Olson said.

He said there was a desire on both sides "to get the relationship on a more stable footing, identify areas where we have mutual interests and identify common interests and move forward".

Asked about Pakistan's concerns about Afganistan-based Pakistani Taliban commander Mullah Fazlullah, who had ordered the recent attack on teenage rights activist Malala  Yousufzai, Olson said US and International Security Assistance Force troops would take action against him 'if we can develop actionable intelligence'.

"It's a challenge because (the) presence of coalition forces (in that part of Afghanistan) is fairly thin but the fact of the matter is if we are able to develop actionable intelligence, we will take action," he said.

Fazlullah escaped to Kunar province of Afghanistan with hundreds of his fighters after Pakistani troops launched an operation against him in Swat Valley in 2009.  

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad