RFE/RL: As EU envoy for Afghanistan, are you worried by the recent unrest in Pakistan's tribal, Pashtun-populated areas and what is seen by many as an encroaching "Talibanization" of the country?
Francesc Vendrell: Well, it's obviously a matter of concern. It's been a matter of concern for quite some time. The media now cover it more than they did before. There is reason to worry that the traditional authorities in the tribal areas, namely the maliks [tribal leaders] and political agents [representatives of the Pakistani government] have become very ineffective, and indeed the maliks -- the tribal chiefs -- many of them have had to flee the tribal areas for their own security. And several, quite a number in fact -- scores of them, in fact -- have been killed. Now, I know that the Pakistani government wants to restore the traditional authority of the maliks and the political agents, but I think this is going to take a long time -- and in the meantime one has to tackle the problem of extremism, which is affecting both sides of the Durand Line [the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan].
RFE/RL: What does this mean for efforts to seal off Afghanistan from Pakistan?
Vendrell: I don't think that one can be realistic in terms of sealing Afghanistan from Pakistan. This is a 2,600 or 2,400 [kilometer] border, and you're not going to be able to seal it. What we want and what we're asking Pakistan, and what Pakistan has said that they would, and [what] they are doing, is to ensure that there is as little infiltration as possible, and that there are no meetings of Taliban leaders in places like Quetta, where apparently they have been able to meet in the past.
RFE/RL: But how can Pakistan prevent infiltration when it has no political authority in the tribal areas?
Vendrell: This is the problem. It is going to take a long time for them to restore their authority. So, there will be some infiltration -- of course there are ways of coping with it, like air surveillance -- but, inevitably, it is going to take time [to stop the infiltration].
EYE OF A STORM:
Afghan officials first suggested that insurgents or terrorists were crossing the border from Pakistan in 2003. Relations have run hot and cold ever since. But the roots of the problem go back much further.
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