Washington: Pakistan has acknowledged a growing threat from within its borders and is changing its attitude toward fighting terrorists, US officials say.
"The Taliban in Pakistan have been attacking Pakistani civilians, Pakistani government officials, military officials, trying to destabilise the government of Pakistan," said Defence Secretary Robert Gates, joined on three Sunday talk shows by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Pakistani police have been on high alert since a bombing-grenade attack on a Rawalpindi mosque left 37 people dead, including several senior Army officers.
On Sunday, police commandos killed one militant and arrested five others in a raid near Peshawar, the gateway city to the Taliban-controlled areas of Pakistan. The detained are suspected of involvement in recent bombings and other attacks not only in Peshawar but in Islamabad and its sister city of Rawalpindi, a Pakistani official said.
"They are bringing pressure to bear on the Taliban in Pakistan, and particularly those that are attacking the Pakistani government," Gates said. "Any pressure on the Taliban, whether it`s in Pakistan or in Afghanistan is helpful to us because al Qaeda is working with both of them."
Hillary said the change in Pakistan`s view has come as its leaders have seen terrorist groups join forces and threaten Pakistan`s sovereignty.
"There is a syndicate of terrorism with al Qaeda at the head of it. So, we`re doing everything we can to support them in what is a really life-or-death struggle," she said.
Gates said the Taliban`s "revival in the safe havens in western Pakistan is a lesson to al Qaeda that they can come back, if they are provided the kind of safe haven that the Taliban were."
Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, is believed to be hiding in Quetta, one of those safe havens in a part of Pakistan that is largely ungoverned by the Pakistani government.
"That`s one of the problems they have," said Hillary. "They ceded territory that they`re now trying to get back."
An underlying concern is the security of Pakistan`s nuclear arsenal. Gates said that he is satisfied that Pakistan`s nuclear weapons are secure.
"The US has been working with Pakistan to keep their supply safe," Gates said.
Hillary and Gates appeared on ABC`s ‘This Week’, CBS` ‘Face the Nation’ and NBC`s ‘Meet the Press’. The interviews were taped on Saturday and the networks provided transcripts in advance of the shows` broadcast.