Image: President Bush and Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
Charles Dharapak  /  AP FILE
President Bush and Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf are seen in this March file photo in Islamabad, Pakistan. The leaders will meet again on Friday.
updated 9/22/2006 7:54:51 AM ET 2006-09-22T11:54:51

President Bush is playing middle man in a thorny foreign policy problem that has bubbled up between two U.S. allies in the war on terrorism who accuse each other of not doing enough to crack down on extremists.

Bush was to meet Friday with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. He’s following up that meeting with talks on Tuesday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Then, they’ll have a three-way sit down on Wednesday.

Bush is working to find a way to defuse the dispute between Pakistan, which is helping the United States track Osama bin Laden and restrain bin Laden’s al-Qaida organization, and the struggling democratic government in Afghanistan.

Karzai’s government is suffering its heaviest insurgent attacks since U.S.-led troops toppled the Taliban in late 2001.

Report: U.S. threatened bombing
Coinciding with the Bush-Musharraf meeting was a news report alleging that after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States pressured Pakistan to become a partner in the U.S.-led war on terror .

In an interview to air Sunday on CBS-TV’s “60 Minutes” program, Musharraf said that after the attacks, Richard Armitage, then deputy secretary of state, told Pakistan’s intelligence director that the United States would bomb his country if it didn’t help fight terrorists.

“The intelligence director told me that (Armitage) said, ‘Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age,”’ Musharraf told “60 Minutes.”

The White House and State Department declined to comment on the conversation.

Armitage told CNN on Thursday that he never threatened to bomb Pakistan, wouldn’t say such a thing and didn’t have the authority to do it. Armitage said he did have a tough message for Pakistan, telling the Muslim nation that it was either “with us or against us,” according to CNN. Armitage said he didn’t know how his message was recounted so differently to Musharraf.

Cross-border tensions
Afghan officials have alleged repeatedly that Taliban militants are hiding out in neighboring Pakistan and launching attacks across the border into Afghanistan. Pakistan, which has deployed 80,000 troops along the border, rejects the accusation and says it’s doing all it can to battle extremists.

“This isn’t about pointing fingers at one another,” State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said Thursday. “What this is about is finding ways that we can all work together to be able to achieve our common objectives, which is a free, secure and independent Afghanistan; a secure Pakistan border area as well.”

Musharraf is strongly defending a truce he recently signed with Taliban-linked militants in the tribal North West Frontier Province where his government has little control. Under the terms of that deal, Pakistani troops agreed to end their military campaign against fighters in North Waziristan. For their part, the militants said they would halt their attacks on Pakistani forces and stop crossing into Afghanistan to launch ambushes.

“If they’re able to live up to the terms of those agreements, the border should be a much quieter region,” NATO’s top commander, U.S. Gen. James L. Jones, said at a Senate hearing on Thursday. “We’re in the process now of observing very closely what is going on and what the effect is on the Afghani side of the border. And we’ll know that within probably the next month or so.”

Karzai said in a speech in New York City on Thursday that the Taliban was not gaining strength and he suggested that Pakistan’s toleration of militants had helped make Afghanistan unstable.

He also said some in the region used extremists to maintain political power, referring to Musharraf.

Karzai: ‘You cannot train a snake’
Karzai equated cooperating with terrorists to “trying to train a snake against somebody else.”

“You cannot train a snake. It will come and bite you,” he said.

During Musharraf’s visit, human rights activists are asking Bush to press Musharraf to restore civilian rule in Pakistan, end discrimination of women, and stop using torture and arbitrary detention in counterterrorism operations. Musharraf seized power in a 1999 coup. Instead of giving up his military uniform in 2004 as promised, he changed the constitution so he could hold both his army post and the presidency until 2007.

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