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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 October 2006, 07:07 GMT 08:07 UK
Nato to press Pakistan on Taleban
David Richards
Gen Richards fears Afghans may begin supporting the Taleban
Nato's commander in Afghanistan is in Pakistan amid accusations by Afghan politicians that the Pakistani spy agency, ISI, is helping the Taleban.

Lt Gen David Richards, a British officer, is expected to meet President Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday.

Gen Musharraf has denied claims the ISI is indirectly aiding the Taleban.

Gen Richards has warned that the majority of Afghan people may start to support the Taleban unless their lives improve in the next six months.

He assumed responsibility for foreign military operations across the whole of Afghanistan from the US-led coalition last week.

Nato forces in the south are facing mounting casualties as they engage in fighting with a resurgent Taleban.

'Excellent job'

The allegations over ISI support for the Taleban resurfaced at the end of September.

Taleban fighters

A leaked document prepared by an official in the Defence Academy, a think-tank linked to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), said the ISI indirectly backs terrorism by supporting religious parties in Pakistan.

The MoD says the views included in the paper are not those of the author, the think-tank or the British government.

Gen Musharraf denied the allegations and said Pakistan was doing an "excellent job" in tracking down militants.

Tuesday's meeting comes after President Musharraf suggested during his recent US tour that a "counter strategy" may be needed in Afghanistan - which was regarded as an attempt to accommodate the Taleban.

The BBC's Ilyas Khan in Karachi says this option has been favoured by the president since the government's agreement with the tribal militants in the North Waziristan area of Pakistan on 5 September.

Cross-border incursions

President Musharraf has been publicly urging the Afghan government to replicate the agreement in the country's troubled south.

However, the Afghan government and western diplomats are reported to be lukewarm towards the plan.

Nato troops in Afghanistan
Nato troops are reported to have engaged in more heavy fighting

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said he wants to hold a jirga (council) of Pashtun tribes from Pakistan and Afghanistan to end Taleban violence.

Afghan officials have frequently accused Pakistan of not doing enough to stop cross-border incursions by militants, charges Pakistan denies.

In the latest violence, police in the southern province of Urzgan say that at least 50 Taleban insurgents were killed in a clash on Sunday night.

Police say they were aided in the fighting by Nato forces and the Afghan National Army (ANA), and that only one Afghan soldier was injured.

However a man claiming to be a spokesman for the Taleban said that 20 Nato and ANA soldiers were killed, with the loss of only five Taleban members.

Correspondents say that it is impossible to confirm the casualty figures provided by either side.

In another incident, police in the eastern province of Nangarhar say that the district governor, the district police chief and the deputy district police chief were killed along with at least two other people in a bomb blast on Monday morning.

Gen David Richards on his concerns for Afghanistan

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