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Cheney says US active in Pakistan

International News | October 18, 2006

US Vice President Dick Cheney said that the United States was taking part in anti-terrorism operations in Pakistan, where more Al-Qaeda members have been caught or killed "probably than any place else."

"We're engaged really on a global basis. We're very active in Afghanistan. We've got continuing activities in Pakistan. We've captured and killed more Al-Qaeda in Pakistan probably than any place else," he said in a radio interview.

A senior US official quickly clarified that Cheney was not talking about unilateral US operations, stressing: "The vice president was talking about our work with the Pakistani government on continuing counter-terrorism operations."

"We do not operate independently there, and the vice president was referring to the coalition against terrorism," said the official, who requested anonymity.

The White House released a transcript of the question-and-answer session, which came as US President George W. Bush was under increased pressure to catch or kill Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden ahead of November 7 legislative elections.

The terrorist mastermind, who has eluded US capture since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, is thought by many to be in a remote area of the Afghan-Pakistan border.

US officials declined to discuss the nature of ongoing operations in detail, but emphasized that US-Pakistani cooperation since the September 11 strikes had netted several suspected senior terrorists.

"As we have always said, we work closely with the government of Pakistan on counterterrorism operations. The president referred to the excellent cooperation our two governments share during (Pakistan) President (Pervez) Musharraf's recent visit to Washington," said White House national security spokesman Frederick Jones.

In public remarks surrounding that visit, Bush and Musharraf left unclear whether Washington would seek permission from Islamabad to hunt down bin Laden.

In a September 15 press conference, Bush had said that such military action would hinge on permission from Pakistan.

"Pakistan is a sovereign nation. In order for us to send thousands of troops into a sovereign nation, we've got to be invited by the government of Pakistan," he said in the White House Rose Garden.

But he said in an interview roughly one week later that he would "take the action necessary" to track down and kill bin Laden, even if it meant hunting them down on Pakistani soil.


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