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Pakistan Army Chief Warns U.S. To Keep Troops Out

U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen said a "new, more comprehensive strategy" for the region is being devised.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -- Pakistan's army chief has said Pakistan would not allow foreign troops to conduct operations on its soil after a cross-border incursion by U.S. commandos.

The strongly-worded statement by General Ashfaq Kayani coincided with comments by the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, that a "more comprehensive strategy" was being formed to combat the threat from the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the region.

Kayani, who met Mullen and other senior U.S. commanders on an aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean on August 28, delivered a clear message that foreign forces would not be tolerated on Pakistani territory, without directly referring to Mullen's comments.

"The sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country will be defended at all cost and no external force is allowed to conduct operations...inside Pakistan," a military statement quoted Kayani as saying.

Helicopter-borne U.S. commandos carried out a ground assault in Pakistan's South Waziristan, a sanctuary for Al-Qaeda operatives, last week, the first known incursion into Pakistan by U.S. troops since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, killing 20 people, including women and children.

"There is no question of any agreement or understanding with the coalition forces whereby they are allowed to conduct operations on our side of the border," Kayani said.

He said he apprised senior U.S. military officials of the "complexity of the issue that requires understanding in depth and more patience for evolving comprehensive solution" when he met them on the "USS Abraham Lincoln" last month.

Kayani warned that "reckless" actions like the one last week could further fuel militancy in the region.

"Trust-deficit and misunderstandings can lead to more complications and increase the difficulties for all," he said.

"Falling for short-term gains while ignoring our long-term interest is not the right way forward," Kayani said, adding that coalition forces should show strategic patience and help Pakistan instead of adopting "a unilateral approach which may be counterproductive".

Revise Strategy

Pakistan, a staunch ally in the U.S.-led war against terrorism, condemned the U.S. raid and summoned the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad to lodge a protest.

The United States and Afghanistan say Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants operate from sanctuaries in northwestern Pakistani border areas, using the semi-autonomous tribal lands to orchestrate their insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan and to plot attacks in the West.

U.S. President George W. Bush on September 9 said militants were stepping up attacks into Afghanistan from safe havens in northwestern Pakistan.

The U.S. military said on September 10 it would revise its strategy for the region to include militant safe havens in neighboring Pakistan.

"I'm not convinced we are winning it in Afghanistan. I am convinced we can," Mullen said in testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee nearly seven years after U.S.-led forces toppled Afghanistan's former Taliban regime following the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Mullen said he was "looking at a new, more comprehensive strategy for the region" that would cover both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Aside from the commando raid, pilotless U.S. drones have carried out at least three missile assaults in Pakistani tribal regions since September 5.

The latest on September 8 targeted a house and religious school, or madrasah, founded by a Jalaluddin Haqqani, a veteran Taliban commander and an old friend of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

Twenty-three people were killed in the attack, most of them family members of Haqqani and around 10 militants, including five low-ranking Al-Qaeda operatives.