Islamabad close to a deal with TTP; Karzai criticizes coalition activities, says real terrorist threat comes from Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan; Solana visits Kabul and Islamabad
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  • The peace deal being negotiated by Islamabad with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was in focus with the Taliban claiming that it would not curtail their ability to stage attacks inside Afghanistan1. The TTP’s Baitullah Mehsud, also accused of being behind the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, declared a ceasefire on April 23 in anticipation of a deal. Reports noted that the deal could buy short-term peace in the violence-hit NWFP and FATA areas but could allow the further growth of the TTP, with negative consequences for Afghanistan’s security2.

    President Hamid Karzai on his part strongly criticized the coalition strategy, especially their inability to prevent civilian casualties while carrying out their operations. He asserted in an interview that the real terrorist threat came from the Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan3. Gen. Dan McNeill, the top US commander in the country stated that Afghan security forces would be able to secure most of Afghanistan by 2011 and called on Afghanistan’s neighbours, including Pakistan to ensure long-term stability of the country. Gen. McNeill also noted that the coalition forces can be better termed as ‘Interim Security Assistance Forces’, in recognition of the temporary role they have to play4.

    In other developments, the EU’s foreign policy chief Javier Solana visited Kabul and Islamabad during the week and discussed the security situation in the region with President Karzai and President Musharraf. Meanwhile, after the death of 2 Dutch soldiers in the previous week, polls showed that public support to the Dutch mission had declined and majority of those polled favouring a withdrawal of troops if the casualty levels touched 255. 16 Dutch soldiers have so far been killed in military operations in the country