ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said Tuesday his country will cooperate with American military efforts in neighboring Afghanistan as long as it takes for the operation to be successful.
Musharraf and Secretary of State Colin Powell agreed that any new government in Afghanistan could include some members of the Taliban militia that now control most of the country.
With Powell standing at his side, Musharraf said Pakistan will unconditionally continue to meet its commitment to share intelligence with the United States, allow use of its air space and provide logistical support in the war against terrorism.
"We certainly will carry on cooperating so long as the operation lasts," Musharraf told a crowded news conference at the presidential palace.
At the same time, Musharraf expressed hope that the operation in Afghanistan will be short -- a point with which Powell concurred. But Powell noted that President Bush has said the anti-terrorist campaign in Afghanistan will continue as long as it takes to achieve its objectives.
The United States began military operations in Afghanistan on Oct. 7 with the goal of hunting down suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida organization for their perceived role in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Also targeted by U.S. forces is the Taliban militia which controls Afghanistan and has provided bin Laden shelter.
Powell said he was satisfied that his talks in Islamabad provided a solid foundation for a durable U.S. relationship with Pakistan. On his return to Washington, Powell said, he will make a strong case with the administration for providing debt relief for Pakistan -- a priority goal of Musharraf's government.
Both Musharraf and Powell called for a broad-based government to replace Taliban rule. Powell said Afghanistan needs a government that "will welcome refugees instead of providing them."
Powell said members of the Taliban government should not automatically be excluded from a successor government. There should be no barrier to Taliban officials who would be willing to serve in a government "where the rights of all are respected."
Musharraf agreed, saying that a broad-based post-Taliban government could include "moderate Taliban leaders."
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