Pakistan 'less than robust' at combating extremism 

Craig Skehan

The Howard Government has accused elements of Pakistani military intelligence of continuing to support Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, where two Australian soldiers have been killed in the past month.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer complained that some members of the Pakistani army were "less than robust" in combating Islamic extremism.

"And we've been concerned about some elements of the Pakistani intelligence services and their links to the Taliban," Mr Downer said.

He said the Taliban - deposed in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the US because it had given sanctuary to al Qaeda - was originally a creation of Pakistani intelligence agents.

Such ties have their origins in the 1980s when the US channelled billions of dollars to Islamic militants fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

The Australian Government believes some members of the Pakistan military's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) still provide covert support to pro-Taliban forces.

As well as increased violence in Afghanistan, forces referred to as local "Pakistani Taliban" have been stepping up attacks, including suicide bombings, in recent months.

While many of those arrested under a state of emergency declared in Pakistan in this week have been genuine democracy activists, one of them was reported to be a former head of ISI, Hameed Gul.

Mr Downer yesterday called on the Pakistan's military to be more active in taking on the Taliban and its allies.

He said Australia was focused on the safety of its 1000 troops in Afghanistan and noted that many militants were able to move into and out of Pakistan.

Australia is concerned that the state of emergency declared by President Musharraf was aimed at pre-empting a feared ruling by Supreme Court that another 5-year presidential term would not be legal.

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