February 25, 2008 / 1:05 PM / 12 years ago

Afghanistan says needs stable and democratic Pakistan

OSLO (Reuters) - Afghanistan needs a stable and democratic Pakistan to help it fight off Taliban militants, Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta said on Monday.

Asked about the impact of last week’s election in Pakistan on Kabul’s struggle against al Qaeda-linked insurgents, Spanta said: “A stable Pakistan is very important for Afghanistan.”

“I hope they will form a government that will strengthen democracy ... and that we will continue our cooperation with Pakistan in anti-terror (activities),” he told reporters.

Pakistani politicians are in talks to form a coalition seen as weakening Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally who seized power in a military coup in 1999.

Pakistani militants linked to al Qaeda warned any incoming government on Sunday that they would increase attacks if Musharraf’s U.S.-backed war on terror continued in tribal areas.

The mountainous region between Afghanistan and Pakistan is a stronghold of the Taliban, analysts say.

Spanta said the Taliban in Afghanistan has in past months switched to attacking soft civilian targets instead of military ones, which he said was a sign of their weakness and inability to battle head on against NATO forces there.

NATO NEEDED

On a tour of Nordic countries to drum up support and aid for Afghanistan’s democracy, Spanta said NATO forces would be needed “for a few years” more while Afghan police and securities forces gain training and equipment.

Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said that Norway sought greater involvement of the United Nations in Afghanistan’s nation-building programmes and more clarity from Kabul about where international aid efforts should focus.

“We share the analysis and the ambition that we need a clearer formulation of Afghan priorities and a clearer formulation of how we, as supporters of this process, coordinate our assistance,” Stoere said after meeting Spanta.

“NATO is the only organisation that can provide this type of security (in Afghanistan) ... but it is not NATO’s speciality to build states, that is more of a U.N. expertise — that’s why we need a stronger U.N. and a stronger mandate,” he said.

Norway has about 500 soldiers in Afghanistan and this month the defence minister said Norway could remain there, along with other NATO countries, possibly until 2015.

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