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Pakistan must do more to address the “sanctuary” that Taliban fighters enjoy in Pakistan before security can improve in Afghanistan, the head of US spy operations said on Thursday.

National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said in testimony before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee that “we all agree that the question of a sanctuary for the Taliban in Pakistan is problematic.”

“There’s a recognition that unless and until something is done to more definitively address that question, it’s always going to be more of a challenge to address the security problems that arise in Afghanistan,” Negroponte said. “This is a problem that we’re actively working.”

US officials discuss the problem with Pakistan with “great, great regularity and more work needs to be done on that,” Negroponte told lawmakers. He added that Pakistan “over the past several years, they have put a lot of Al Qaeda and foreign fighters out of commission during that period of time. So I have no doubt whatsoever about their commitment to the war.”

Pakistan’s peace deals with pro-Taliban militants and tribal elders in the Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan were in jeopardy on Wednesday, a day after an army air strike on suspected Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.

The timing of the attack, coinciding with a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Afghanistan, raised speculation that Pakistan was seeking to deflect U.S. criticism it was not doing enough to curb Taliban operating from its territory.

The strike — by rocket-firing helicopters on a cluster of compounds that intelligence officials said housed men loyal to pro-Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud and half a dozen al Qaeda fighters — risked stirring up a hornets nest in Waziristan.
 

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