Thursday, August 28, 2008

CNN: Not so secret -U.S./Pakistan secret meeting.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senior U.S. and Pakistani military commanders held a secret meeting this week to discuss the growing Taliban and al Qaeda threat in Pakistan and Afghanistan, a senior U.S. military official said Thursday.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with the Pakistani Army chief of staff.

Word of the secret talks came as the Pakistani military said Thursday it had killed 23 militants in two attacks on Taliban fighters in the Swat valley of northwestern Pakistan.

Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, a military spokesman, said one of the attacks involved an airstrike and artillery while the second involved ground troops. He provided no additional details.

This week's secret meeting "focused on ways to better work together to defeat extremists on the border and to help Pakistan deal with its own internal threats from extremism," the official said.

Those participating in the meeting included the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, and Pakistani Army chief of staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

The meeting, which took place Tuesday aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Indian Ocean, was confirmed to CNN by the senior U.S. military official after details were first reported in the New York Times.

The talks also come amid a growing acknowledgment by U.S. officials that the Taliban has shifted tactics and is now conducting military-style attacks against U.S. troops.

The U.S. military, led by Mullen, has been pressing Kayani for months to crack down on militants in the border region in part because of the growing number crossing into Afghanistan to attack American troops. So far, there has been no reportable lessening of the flow of militants, according to several U.S. commanders.

"There is no diminishing of their ability to operate" in the border region, the official said.

And in recent weeks, the Taliban tactics have shifted.

For months, U.S. commanders had been saying the insurgents in Afghanistan were reduced to using terrorist hit-and-run and suicide-style tactics because they had no other capabilities. But now, the official said, that is changing.

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