WASHINGTON – Following a speech by Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf this weekend, Secretary of State Colin Powell said he hoped Musharraf's call for a crackdown on radical elements will translate into lessons for would-be militants.
"[Musharraf's] speech over the weekend was really quite historic and I hope we will see further action in the days and weeks ahead that will persuade everyone of his commitment to this new future to Afghanistan, a future where this kind of extremism, this kind of terrorism is no longer tolerated," Powell said Monday.
On Sunday, Musharraf said militants within Pakistan's borders will not be tolerated, even though Pakistan will continue to do everything to defend the border it shares with rival India.
The two nations have been at the brink of war since a Dec. 13 attack on India's Parliament, attributed to Pakistani militants.
Within hours of his speech, the Pakistani government arrested 1,100 alleged radicals, a move Powell said was a strong beginning for de-escalating tensions with its nuclear neighbor.
"We are trying to find a way that no spark ignites a conflagration between these two forces and I think we have made progress in these last few days, but one shouldn't expect the whole situation to be resolved after one speech," Powell told Fox News.
More than 1 million Pakistani and Indian troops are lined up at the shared border, a tenuous situation for both countries. But Powell, headed to the region to look for ways to defuse the crisis, an extension of 50 years of rivalry over the disputed territory of Kashmir, said Musharraf's rhetoric, if followed by action, would be a good indication of its seriousness, a sign India is seeking.
What India won't get is access to the extremists. Suspected militants rounded up into Pakistani jails can be held there for up to three months. India says it wants some of them handed over, but Musharraf said no Pakistani national would be given to India.
Powell said he "doesn't want to even think about" the possibility that the two nuclear nations could go to war.
"We do not want and cannot have a war in South Asia at this time and all of our efforts are being directed at avoiding such a war."
Following his trip to Central Asia, Powell will fly to Tokyo to attend a conference on reconstructing war-torn Afghanistan. He said the United States is ready to commit billions of dollars to help the nation recover from decades of internal and international war.
Estimates are that Afghanistan will need $45 billion over the next 10 years in order to pull it out of its poverty. Powell said Afghanistan needs help in all of its infrastructural developments, including housing, water, police, health care system, education, and military.
"$45 billion is one estimate. In the first instance, we're looking for a much smaller amount, a couple of billions of dollars in the first year and the United States will make a significant contribution to that effort.
"We're all going to have to contribute to Afghanistan's, not even its reconstruction, its construction in the first instance. This is a very broken country."
The United States, along with Japan, the European Union and Saudi Arabia are hosting the Afghanistan reconstruction conference to be held next week in Tokyo. The goal is to pull together a coalition of nations to help pull Afghanistan from its poverty, considered a major reason why terrorists were allowed to fester in the stricken nation.
Powell said one way to help Afghanistan is to re-establish its monetary systems.
"We're also working hard to free up Afghani assets in various financial institutions around the world so they have their own money available for use," he said.
One economic boost for Afghanistan's capital city Kabul will be the reopening of the city's damaged airport. British crews are busy repairing the airfield, heavily damaged by U.S.-led airstrikes. Three of five major craters on the runway have been filled in so far.
Recent hail and rain has made the process more difficult. Another big job at the airport is to remove unexploded ordnance on the field and a perimeter of mines installed by the Soviets in the 1970's.
Fox News' Steve Centanni and Adam Housley contributed to this report.