Kerry: Pakistan can be better ally against terror
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Pakistan could be a better partner in the fight against terrorists, U.S. Sen. John Kerry said Saturday on the first leg of a visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan to patch up relations following the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden.
Kerry, chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the United States wants Pakistan to be a real ally in combatting terrorism.
"We believe there are things that can be done better," he said in a visit to Mazar-i-Sharif, a large city in the north.
Kerry's trip to Afghanistan and later Pakistan comes as the relationship between Washington and Islamabad is frayed over the U.S. unilateral raid on Pakistani soil that killed bin Laden.
Pakistani officials have denied that they knew that the world's most-wanted terrorist was hiding for years in the northwest garrison city of Abbottabad. They are angry at U.S. officials for not alerting them to plans for the May 2 raid.
Speaking to reporters, Kerry was asked if the United States would be putting more pressure on Pakistan because bin Laden was tracked down there, and whether the U.S. would go after the Taliban's leader, Mullah Omar, who could be hiding in Pakistan as well.
Kerry said only: "It's a legitimate question and it's certainly a question that's on the minds of every American and lots of other people in the world."
Kerry also said that President Barack Obama and the American people were committed to working with Afghans who have a long history of fighting for their own independence. His visit comes just two months before Afghan security forces are to begin to take the lead for securing Mazar-i-Sharif and a handful of other areas of the nation.
"We're committed to working with you to say no to terrorism, no to violence and yes to economic possibilities," he said.
Separately, insurgents attacked a private security company in Andar district of Ghazni province in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing four guards and setting a vehicle on fire, the Afghan Ministry of Interior said.
Also in the east, more than 100 people demonstrated Saturday to protest the accidental death of a teenage boy by U.S.-led coalition forces in Nangarhar province. The protesters shouted slogans against the coalition force and the Afghan government, said Abdul Khaliq Marouf, chief of Hisarak district.
Taliban insurgents who were in the crowd exchanged gunfire with Afghan policemen outside the district office. One protester died in the shootout, Marouf said.
NATO said that a 15-year-old boy was killed in Hisarak district Friday when he reached for a weapon as coalition and Afghan forces were searching a room. The joint force was in the area looking for a Taliban leader suspected of distributing weapons and roadside bombs in the area.
"We are deeply sorry for this tragedy and apologize to the members of the Afghan government, the people of Afghanistan and most importantly, the surviving family members," said Rear Adm. Hal Pittman, deputy chief of staff for communication for the coalition force.