By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
May 6, 2009 - The presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan vowed to work closely together to defeat the common threat to both countries: a resurgent Taliban. Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari spoke during meetings with U.S. government leaders at the State Department today. They are scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House later this afternoon.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan have a common cause against the Taliban and must work together in many areas to defeat the extremist threat. Many members of the Obama Cabinet and other high-ranking U.S. government officials joined Clinton and the presidents.
"The presence of this distinguished group of U.S. officials from different federal agencies reflects President Obama's and my strong belief that promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan must be an all-government effort," Clinton said. "This is not just the State Department's responsibility or the Defense Department's. But it is all of us working together."
Afghanistan and Pakistan are "conjoined twins," Karzai said. "Our suffering is shared. Our joys are always shared. The life that we live is affected by the opportunities that we have and the lack of opportunities that occur because of the circumstances in which we live today."
Pakistani-Afghan relations have not always been smooth, but Karzai pledged to work closely with Zardari to bring more confidence and trust to the relationship. He said he wants to create "a working environment in which the two countries together can wage a more effective struggle against the menace of terrorism and the violence that radicalism causes, both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan, and the danger that they pose to you in America and the rest of the world."
Speaking through a translator, Zardari called Karzai "my dear brother," and also vowed to nurture cooperation between the two countries. He said Pakistan carries the burden of confronting al-Qaida and the Taliban, but that democracies are up to the challenge.
Zardari thanked the United States for standing by the new democratically elected government in Pakistan.
"We thank the United States for its support for democracy, for security in Pakistan, and look forward to further support," he said. "Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States are all victims of terror – as is, indeed, the entire world. Our threat is common, and our responsibilities should be shared. I am here to assure you that we should share this world in which we are."
Zardari said that Pakistan will deliver.
"The people of Pakistan stand with the people of United States and the people of Afghanistan," he said. "We stand with our brother Karzai and the people of Afghanistan against this common threat, this menace, which I have called cancer. This is a cancer. It needs to be done away with."