Thursday, September 16, 2010

Angelina Jolie makes Pakistan floods video appeal

United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, Angelina Jolie, has appealed for support for the victims of massive flooding in Pakistan.

The Disasters Emergency Committee has revealed the long-term struggle faced by thousands in Pakistan in the wake of the flooding.

Pakistani, Afghan Leaders Build Ties

Pakistan's president offered Wednesday to enhance intelligence sharing with Afghanistan to help fight Taliban insurgents.

President Asif Ali Zardari said Pakistan and Afghanistan need to work closer to fight the militants who he said threaten the security of both the countries.

"The relations between the two countries have improved, and we intend to enhance them further," Mr. Zardari told reporters after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is on a two-day visit to Pakistan.

Afghanistan has long complained that Pakistan allows Taliban fighters to shelter on its side of the border between the two countries. U.S. officials have also raised concerns that the Inter-Services Intelligence military spy agency continues to shelter the Taliban, which it helped create in the 1990s.

In response to a question on whether he believed the ISI was still funding the Taliban, Mr. Karzai said: "The insurgents are getting support from somewhere, and it is in the interest of both the countries to stop it."

Mr. Karzai said the talks touched on Taliban bases in Pakistan's tribal regions that border Afghanistan. "These are issues that we should discuss, and these are issues that we should fight together," he said.

In the past couple of years, the Pakistan Taliban, which often work closely with their Afghan Taliban allies, have been involved in a war against the Pakistan state. But Pakistan hasn't yet acted seriously against other Taliban factions that target mainly U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization soldiers in Afghanistan, U.S. officials say.

What Mr. Zardari's promises of increased intelligence sharing add up to is unclear. The ISI, which maintains ties to the Afghan Taliban and allied groups like the Haqqani network, isn't controlled by the civilian government.

Still, Mr. Karzai has increased the frequency of his trips to Pakistan in recent months, in a sign of attempts to forge an end to the Taliban insurgency. Mr. Karzai is expected to meet Thursday with Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani. Gen. Kayani and the ISI chief, Lt. General Shuja Pasha, have visited Kabul several times in the past few months.

Senior Pakistan officials have promoted a potential peace deal in meetings with U.S. and Afghan officials under which the Taliban would lay down arms in return for some measure of autonomy in the ethnic Pashtun areas of Afghanistan, people familiar with the discussions say. The Taliban draws its fighters largely from Pashtun areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Mr. Karzai's position on such a plan remains unclear. He has reached out recently to the Taliban in an attempt to start talks and stop the fighting, worrying some other ethnic groups in the north of Afghanistan who are traditional rivals of the Pashtun.

Mr. Karzai's visit comes ahead of critical Afghan parliamentary elections Saturday, which the Taliban have vowed to disrupt. "We hope the elections will be peaceful," he said