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US general holds talks with Tajikistan
by Staff Writers
Dushanbe (AFP) March 31, 2012

General James Mattis, the head of US Central Command, on Saturday held talks with Takjik President Emomali Rakhmon as Washington seeks continued support for its military operation in next-door Afghanistan.

"Tajikistan would like to see further strengthening of the development of ties with the United States in the sphere of security and the establishment of peace and stability in the region," Rakhmon told the visiting US general in comments released by his office.

Mattis for his part thanked Tajikistan for its support of the NATO-led operation in Afghanistan, saying Washington would continue providing assistance to the impoverished Central Asian nation's army and border guards, the Tajik statement said.

"The need to ramp up such cooperation is increasing, especially from 2014, that is upon the withdrawal of international coalition forces from Afghanistan," said the statement.

Tajikistan, which shares a porous 1,340-kilometre (830-mile) border with war-torn Afghanistan, agreed in 2009 to permit the overland transit of non-military supplies intended for NATO operations in Afghanistan.

Under NATO's strategy, Afghan army and police are due to assume security for the whole of the country by the end of 2014, while the United States hopes to keep a small force in place post-2014 pending negotiations with the Kabul government.

On Friday, Mattis held talks with Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the leader of isolated but energy-rich Turkmenistan. On Thursday, he met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

The office of Karimov whose country also provides Washington with logistical support for the war in neighboring Afghanistan said the two countries had recently improved cooperation in political, economic, and regional security matters.

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Pakistan president to visit India: officials
Islamabad (AFP) April 1, 2012 - Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari is to visit India soon, officials said Sunday, as the two nuclear-armed rivals seek to improve their relationship.

Zardari will travel in a private capacity to visit the shrine of a Sufi Muslim saint -- the first trip to India by a Pakistani head of state since 2005.

"The foreign ministries of the two countries have been in touch with each other to finalise details for the president's visit, which will be private, and he will travel to India soon," presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told AFP.

Dates for the visit have not been finalised, the spokesman said, but will be announced soon.

Another senior government official also confirmed Zardari's trip.

"It will be his private visit during which he will go to Ajmer Sharif" shrine to pay his respects, the official said.

Officials were not sure whether Zardari would use the opportunity to hold talks with India's political leaders.

India and Pakistan have had a fraught relationship since independence from British rule in 1947, fighting three wars and carrying out tit-for-tat nuclear detonations in 1998.

New Delhi froze peace talks with Islamabad following terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that left 166 people dead and which India blames on Pakistan-based militants.

But the slow-moving peace dialogue resumed early last year with visits by officials.

In March last year, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh watched their countries' teams play in the cricket World Cup semi-final in India.

Pakistan said in February it would phase out major restrictions on Indian imports by the end of the year in an effort to normalise trade relations.


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In Afghan war, US struggles with insidious insider threat
Washington (AFP) March 29, 2012
NATO commanders are struggling to contain the damage from a spike in "fratricidal" attacks by Afghan forces, seeking to protect their troops without rupturing a frayed partnership with Kabul. With Afghan soldiers opening fire on their NATO comrades with alarming frequency, US defense officials on Thursday confirmed that NATO troops had been ordered to adopt strict new security precautions to ... read more

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