UNITED NATIONS – On Wednesday, Pakistan's top diplomat rejected the idea of any foreign troops operating inside Pakistan, reinforcing its refusal to accept U.S. military aid in battling insurgents near the Afghan border.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's comments, made during a U.N. Security Council session on Afghanistan's future, could deal a blow to the United States' efforts to kill or capture Al Qaeda leaders.
"Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used against other countries. However, no foreign troops will be allowed to operate inside Pakistan," Qureshi told the 15-nation council
The council's session was shadowed by Monday's suicide car bombing at India's Embassy in Kabul that killed dozens and wounded more than 130 people. Afghan officials quickly raised suspicions that Pakistani operatives had worked with the Taliban to set off a bombing that could play into the long-standing struggle for power between Pakistan and India.
The Indian ambassador to Afghanistan, Jayant Prasad, said the death toll from Monday's bombing had risen from 41 to 58 and that several school-age children were among the dead.
Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta described the car bombing as another "in the succession of increasingly brutal attacks that targeted the people of Afghanistan, the region, and the world."
Qureshi condemned the Indian Embassy attack as "highly reprehensible" and pledged greater cooperation with Afghanistan. But he suggested new limits to Pakistan's cooperation with the U.S. military.
Without directly referring to the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, Qureshi said, "The military option should be used, but as a last, and not the first resort. Military tactics should not create more alienation, more opposition and more enemies."
The U.S. has offered military support to help Pakistan's military put more pressure on Al Qaeda and Taliban strongholds in Pakistan's tribal areas. In recent days, news reports also described Washington as taking steps to make it easier to launch covert special missions in Pakistan's remote tribal areas, where Al Qaeda is believed to be rebuilding its global terror network.
The U.S. has voiced increasing frustrations that Pakistan does not seem willing to apply even more pressure to those areas where the insurgents are thought to inhabit.
"Afghanistan should not [be] used as a geopolitical battleground and we call on Afghanistan's neighbors not to arm or finance insurgents or allow them to operate from their territories," U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said.