US Central Command Chief in War Meeting with Pakistani President
The commander-in-chief of the US Central Command in the Gulf, General Tommy Franks, met Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf here Monday to discuss the war in Afghanistan, officials said.
His discussions with General Musharraf, Pakistan's armed forces chief, are the highest-level military talks between the United States and its frontline ally since the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.
Military sources, who did not want to be named, said the general overseeing the US operations against the Taliban and the al-Qaeda alleged terrorist network in Afghanistan was due to stay for only a few hours.
Franks is the commander of American forces in the region including the Gulf, Pakistan and Afghanistan, making him the top theatre commander for the current US campaign against the Taliban.
"He is expected to discuss the ongoing military operation in Afghanistan and the progress towards achieving the objectives," an official said.
Franks' visit comes at a sensitive time for the US-led military campaign in Afghanistan, which entered its fourth week Sunday.
A series of bombing blunders and mounting civilian deaths have fueled protests in the Islamic world, particularly in Pakistan where large sections of the population have ethnic links to the Taliban.
The hardline Islamic Taliban's defiant resistance to the bombing, and the failure of opposition forces to make any headway on the ground, has also raised doubts about the effectiveness of the airstrikes.
Pakistan has promised logistical support, intelligence and the use of airspace for the duration of the campaign, but Musharraf has repeatedly stressed he hoped the operations would be "short and targeted."
Franks on Saturday met Saudi Arabia's King Fahd, Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, Defense Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz and top Saudi military commanders in Riyadh.
It was the first visit by a senior American military official to Saudi Arabia since the US launched its bombing blitz of Afghanistan on October 7.
The al-Qaeda organisation of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, a guest of the Taliban since 1996, is blamed for the attacks in the US using hijacked planes which killed more than 5,000 people -- ISLAMABAD, (AFP)
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