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Kasuri: U.S. military strikes would be 'completely counterproductive'

  • Story Highlights
  • Pakistan's army should handle tribal area, not U.S. troops, foreign minister says
  • 85,000 Pakistani troops already in tribal areas where militants are, Kasuri says
  • Kasuri: Pakistan's commitment cannot be doubted by anybody
  • Pakistan troops will result in far less collateral damage, Kasuri says
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(CNN) -- It would be "completely counterproductive" for the United States to launch military strikes in the Pakistani tribal regions where al Qaeda and Taliban militants have created safe havens, Pakistan's foreign minister said Sunday.

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"It is much better to rely on the Pakistan army," Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri said.

Khurshid Kasuri further told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" that 85,000 Pakistani troops were already in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, a mountainous and notoriously dangerous region at the porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"The Pakistani military is already there in the tribal area," Kasuri said. "Pakistan's commitment cannot be doubted by anybody."

If the United States were to take unilateral military action in the area, Kasuri said, "you will lose the war -- the battle for hearts and minds."

"Our commitment is total, but this war -- or whatever you would like to call it -- can only be won if we have hearts and minds on our side," he said.

Kasuri also said using Pakistani rather than U.S. troops will result in "far, far less collateral damage."

"Look at the ratio of casualties between your troops and Iraqi civilians," he said. "The difference is that we cannot afford what is conveniently called 'collateral damage.' "

White House Homeland Security Adviser Frances Townsend has praised Pakistan's cooperation in the war on terror. However, she also has told Fox News and CNN that President Bush is leaving all options open as he considers how to handle the resurgent terrorist organizations thought to be hiding out along the border and in the Tribal areas.

"Job No. 1 is to protect the American people, and there are no options that are off the table," Townsend said on "Fox News Sunday." He added that Bush is "committed to the most effective action that we can possibly take in the FATA to deny them the safe haven."

The Bush administration has been fielding new questions about Pakistan since the National Intelligence Estimate claimed last week that al Qaeda is operating freely inside the tribal region.

The intelligence report stoked criticism of President Pervez Musharraf, who cut a deal with tribal chiefs and removed Pakistani troops from North Waziristan, an alleged hub of al Qaeda and Taliban. The chiefs, in return, promised they would not harbor militants.

Townsend and other U.S. officials have said the agreement was a failure.

Though the agreement recently was scrapped, Pakistan bristled at a White House assertion that the United States would be willing to strike "actionable targets" in Pakistan. Islamabad has called the White House remarks "irresponsible and dangerous."

Kasuri suggested Sunday that the 9/11 Commission's report -- issued in 2004 -- offered a better picture of the situation in Pakistan than did the National Intelligence Estimate.

"It took stock of the entire situation, and it came to a conclusion that it would be completely counterproductive [to carry out] attacks in the tribal areas of Pakistan by the United States," Kasuri said.

Kasuri called on Washington to provide Pakistan with "actionable intelligence, and you will find that Pakistan will never be lacking."

"So if you have superiority in technical intelligence, please share that with us." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Al QaedaKhursheed KasuriThe TalibanPakistan

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