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U.S. commander, Pakistan leader discuss Afghan situation

Gen. Tommy Franks, chief of U.S. Central Command, runs the day-to-day operations of the U.S. military in southwest Asia.  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The chief of U.S. forces in southwest Asia held talks Monday with Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf, whose support for the U.S.-led Afghanistan campaign has caused trouble at home.

Gen. Tommy Franks, chief of the U.S. Central Command, runs the massive day-to-day operations of the U.S. military in the region. He met with Musharraf briefly Monday, Pakistani government spokesman Muhammad Riaz Khan said.

"They of course discussed the situation relating to Afghanistan," Riaz Khan said.

U.S. forces have spent more than three weeks attacking Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and the al Qaeda organization, which Washington blames in the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

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Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 military coup, has agreed to let U.S warplanes cross Pakistani airspace and to provide logistical support for the allied effort. Pakistan's backing is vital to the U.S.-led campaign, but Musharraf's decision to support the antiterrorist operation has put him under increasing domestic pressure.

Pakistan backed the Taliban until siding with the U.S. effort after the September 11 attacks. A small percentage of Pakistani Muslims and some Afghan refugees living in Pakistan have mounted sometimes-violent protests against Musharraf's decision to support the campaign.

Musharraf has most of Pakistan "very much behind him," political analyst Mansoor Ijaz said. But the general has said he wants the conflict over quickly.

Thousands of armed Pakistani volunteers have set out for Afghanistan to join the Taliban in the past week, but Pakistani authorities have said they would not let them cross. The Taliban ambassador in Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, said Monday that the volunteers were being turned away "because the ground battles have not started so far."

Ijaz warned CNN that the influence of Islamic militants from outside the region will make it more difficult for Musharraf to restrain domestic opposition.

"Where this becomes a problem is if the general has to bring the army out into the streets to contain and control this kind of activity," Ijaz said.

Pakistan announced Monday it would deport 15 Afghan refugees charged in connection with violent protests in Quetta and other towns. Police said deportations are meant to send a message to any Afghan refugees intent on breaking the law while in Pakistan.


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