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Pakistan Admits Security Forces Allowed Taleban Raids

02 February 2007

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has acknowledged that some members of his security forces have turned a "blind eye" to Taleban raids into neighboring Afghanistan. As VOA correspondent Benjamin Sand reports, General Musharraf also says his military will begin fencing nearly 300 kilometers of its border with Afghanistan to prevent cross-border militant activity.

General Pervez Musharraf said that some Pakistani frontier guards have "turned a blind eye" to Taleban incursions across the border. He indicated that often, the border guards were outgunned, and could do little to stop such movements.

The Pakistani president, however, denied allegations that the hard-line Islamist militants have received any official support or sanction from any elements of the Pakistan government. He said those claims were personally insulting and overlooked the broader international responsibility for helping secure the volatile region.

"It is a joint responsibility of Pakistan, Afghanistan, U.S. forces and NATO, and we refuse to take complete responsibility of stopping every action on the border," he said.

Speaking to reporters Friday, President Musharraf said only a small portion of Pakistan's 2,500 kilometer border with Afghanistan will be fenced immediately. He confirmed the first phase of the controversial plan is already being implemented and should be done in a few months

"We are doing it. We have taken a decision," he said. "The total area to be fenced is about 35.2 kilometers in seven or eight different pieces."

Mr. Musharraf said his government is considering fencing up to 250 kilometers.

The plan was announced late last year, along with an even more controversial proposal to mine parts of the rugged border.

Afghanistan opposes the plan, which it says would unfairly divide people who live along the porous border.

General Musharraf dismissed those concerns Friday but did say Pakistan will delay mining the area because of international opposition.

"We will wait for any suggestions from anyone to avoid fencing and mining but if no suggestions comes, leave us to ourselves," he said. "This is Pakistan and we will do it our way."

Afghan and U.S. officials say Taleban insurgents have established a safe havens inside Pakistan.

General Musharraf also said Friday that he did not believe any senior Taleban leaders were hiding in Pakistan, but he said one leader, Mullah Dadullah had entered the country three times. Each time, the president said, Pakistan forces tried to capture him, but they had failed.

U.S. lawmakers recently introduced a new bill that would cut off American military aid to Pakistan unless Islamabad takes stronger action against the insurgents.

U.S. and NATO military commanders in Afghanistan say the Taleban is likely planning a new spring offensive. Violence along the border area is expected to increase dramatically in the next few months as the weather warms and snow melts, making it easier for insurgents to operate.

Last year was Afghanistan's bloodiest year since U.S. forces ousted the Taleban government from power in 2001. Resurgent Taleban forces have reclaimed areas in both southern and eastern Afghanistan.

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