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Beijing urged to do more to help with terror fight
By Zhang Haizhou and Zhang Xin (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-10-16 07:14

Afghanistan and Pakistan yesterday appealed for more help from China and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to support their ongoing struggle against terrorism.

Capacity building, reconstruction, poverty-relief and intelligence exchange are the areas in which China and the SCO can help, Afghan Second Vice-President Mohammad Karim Khalili and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told China Daily.

Experts agreed that China should offer more support in those areas but urged Beijing to keep away from military engagement, because dispatching more troops will not resolve the problem.

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"The western countries are working to train the security forces in Afghanistan and help the Afghans have the ability to help themselves. The SCO can play a role in building capacities" in training national police and national security forces, Khalili said.

He added that fighting terrorism in Afghanistan "has always been" a shared responsibility and task of the world, because, without the effort, the "whole region (Central Asia) will be affected".

Khalili, 59, said ensuring peace and security depends most on building civilian infrastructure and increasing military and civil reconstruction efforts.

The vice-president said Afghanistan needs the SCO to help eliminate poverty, the "root cause of rampant terrorism".

Gilani, who became the Pakistani prime minister in March 2008, also called for more help from China in intelligence work.

"There should be more exchange of intelligence and information between the two countries," the 57-year-old said.

Islamabad started a major anti-terror mission in the Swat Valley region in northern Pakistan in May.

Even though the mission claimed some significant achievements, such as the killing of former Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in August, some major cities in the area have seen a rise in terror attacks.

Militants yesterday launched several attacks on police, in Lahore in the Pakistani heartland and in the troubled northwest, killing 24 people.

"One thing I will show you (that) we have the ability, we have the will to fight against terrorism," Gilani said. He stressed anti-terrorism was his "priority number one".

Gilani said the death of Mehsud signaled a "new thrust" for his government's effort.

"The SCO can play an extremely important role in combating terrorism and extremism," Gilani added.

The SCO - whose members include China, Russia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan - had its eighth prime ministers' meeting in Beijing on Wednesday. Both Gilani and Khalili attended - as representatives from an observing country and a guest nation.

Chinese experts said China should have a comprehensive plan to help neighboring countries combat terror.

Dong Manyuan, an anti-terror expert at China Institute of International Studies, said Beijing could help Pakistan improve the armament of government forces and strengthen collaboration in intelligence exchange.

"The Chinese government should offer help to settle war refugees in Pakistan," Dong said, noting Islamabad's anti-terror mission had displaced about three million people.

He said Beijing should discuss the issue with SCO member states.

But he too cautioned against China getting involved militarily in Afghanistan.

"Relying solely on sending more troops to the region won't work because the key is to resolve the problem of development," Dong said.

The top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has recommended sending at least 40,000 additional troops and trainers as part of a beefed-up counterinsurgency strategy.

Washington already has 65,000 troops there, a figure expected to reach 68,000 later this year. Other nations, mainly NATO allies, have some 39,000 troops in the country, Reuters reported.

Wang Shida, an expert on Afghanistan studies at China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said the SCO "has no consensus on sending troops" to Kabul.

The SCO is a regional mechanism framework, which offers mainly non-military help to Afghanistan, he said, although fighting terrorism was originally the prime mission of the SCO.

China is engaged in reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, but has no military involvement.