U-S Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says military tensions between India and Pakistan are distracting, but have not hurt U-S-led anti-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan.
Mr. Rumsfeld says Pakistan has moved small military groups from the Afghan border region southward toward India but that large units searching for al-Qaida and Taleban remnants have not been affected.
The U-S Defense Secretary will visit India and Pakistan starting Sunday in New Delhi, but says he will not act as a mediator. Mr. Rumsfeld begins an overseas trip Wednesday in Brussels to discuss the war on terror and weapons of mass destruction with NATO counterparts.
His comments Tuesday at the Pentagon came as U-S special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, warned that scattered al-Qaida members remain a threat to Afghanistan's fragile stability. Speaking in Kabul Tuesday, Mr. Khalilzad expressed particular concern about the upcoming Loya Jirga -- the grand tribal council that will convene next week to choose a new transitional government.
Meanwhile, Afghan and Iranian news reports have quoted officials as saying the fugitive Taleban leader Mullah Omar was recently spotted in southwestern Afghanistan. The Taleban leader fled his stronghold of Kandahar about six months ago following the defeat of his forces by the U-S-backed Northern Alliance.