Karzai, Musharraf to Lead Tribal Talks

The Associated Press
Saturday, September 30, 2006; 10:20 AM

KABUL, Afghanistan -- President Hamid Karzai said on Saturday that he and the Pakistani president will jointly lead a series of tribal gatherings along their countries' shared border to quell attacks on Afghanistan by Pakistan-based Taliban rebels.

Karzai said he wants an end to the Taliban incursions from Pakistan. The number of attacks in the Afghan border regions has tripled following a peace agreement between the Pakistani government and pro-Taliban tribesmen in its territory, according to U.S. officials.

"We're waiting to see how this peace deal works out. So far it hasn't been fruitful for Afghanistan," Karzai said.

Karzai appears to have been unable to secure Pakistan's immediate cooperation in shutting down radical religious schools or arresting Taliban leaders living in Pakistan.

Radical elements in some Islamic schools, also known as madrassas, have been blamed for indoctrinating suicide bombers and anti-government fighters who have stepped up attacks in Afghanistan in recent months. Hours before Karzai spoke Saturday, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd near Afghanistan's Interior Ministry, killing at least 12 people.

"Unless we target the madrassas and their preaching of hatred against Islam and humanity, we won't be successful," Karzai said.

A U.S. military officer said on Wednesday that the cease-fire that began June 25, cemented by the signing of a peace accord Sept. 5, allowed the Taliban to use the North Waziristan border area to plan and carrying out attacks in Afghanistan.

Pakistani tribal elders brokered the truce between Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's government and militants, ending years of unrest in the tribal region.

Karzai played down suggestions that relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan had cooled because of his bickering with Musharraf. The pair, who met with President Bush on Wednesday, conspicuously refused to shake hands in front of the press on the White House lawn.

"Relations with my brother Musharraf are never cool," Karzai said. "Afghanistan wants stability and brotherly relations between both countries."

Karzai said he and Musharraf would attend a series of jirgas, or consultative councils, with tribal elders and governors focused on the Afghan border provinces of Nangahar and Paktika and Pakistan's autonomous tribal region, North Waziristan.

The two presidents will seek ways to employ armed tribesmen on both sides of the border to stabilize the region and cut down on insurgent raids, Karzai said.

© 2006 The Associated Press