WASHINGTON, Sep 27: President George W Bush will seek to ease tensions between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf today amid a Taliban resurgence that is pressuring all three governments.
After holding separate meetings with each leader in recent days, Bush sits down with Karzai and Musharraf in the evening for a working White House dinner.
Karzai and Musharraf have been trading barbs over the past week, both raising questions about the way the other is handling the Taliban along the remote region spanning their countries' border.
For Bush, the resurgent Taliban has become an issue in the November 7 US congressional elections because Democrats charge Bush short-changed Afghanistan in order to pour troops and money into the Iraq war.
The Taliban's intensified campaign against the Afghan government and foreign troops supporting it this year has spawned the worst violence since the hard-line Islamists were ousted after the September 11 attacks in 2001.
US and NATO troops are up against a much more intense insurgency than expected and NATO has called for more troops from member nations.
Musharraf and Karzai have been at odds over Afghan accusations the Taliban are operating from Pakistan.
At a news conference with Karzai yesterday, Bush said he did not believe any tensions between Karzai and Musharraf would dampen the effort to find al Qaeda's elusive leader Osama bin Laden.
But he said, half in jest, that he wanted to see the body language between Karzai and Musharraf ''to determine how tense things are.'' ''I'll be good,'' Karzai replied with a smile.
Musharraf, using a US visit in part to promote his memoir, said yesterday he believed Karzai was aware of the political environment in his country.
''He is not oblivious. He knows everything. But he is purposely denying, turning a blind eye like an ostrich. He doesn't want to tell the world what is the fact for his own personal reasons,'' Musharraf told CNN.
Karzai has complained that Taliban fighters carrying out armed attacks inside his country are being sheltered on the Pakistani side of the rugged border.
Karzai was cautious on a deal Musharraf's government signed with Islamic tribal leaders aimed against the Taliban, saying he wanted to see if it would work.
His top priority was to ensure that ''the terrorists will not be allowed to cross over into Afghanistan'' to launch attacks, he said.
''We will have to wait and see if that is going to be implemented exactly the way it is signed,'' he said. ''So, from our side, it's a wait-and-see attitude.''