Pakistan Takes Steps to End Militant Threat on Afghan Border
By Ayaz Gul
29 June 2008
Afghan and NATO officials say insecurity has increased in Afghanistan in recent months, citing peace deals neighboring Pakistan has signed with Taliban militants on its side of the border. Pakistan rejects the criticism and says it is using dialogue as well as force to try to end militancy in its tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
NATO-led forces and Afghan authorities have long maintained that militant bases on the Pakistani side of the border are fueling Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. They have also criticized Pakistan's government for signing peace deals with Taliban militants, saying the move has encouraged more cross-border attacks on local and foreign forces in Afghanistan.
On Sunday, a spokesman for the NATO-led security force in Kabul, Mark Laity, reiterated those concerns at a news conference in Kabul.
"We know that as long as insurgents can operate safely on the Pakistan side of the border then there cannot be security in Afghanistan," said Laity. "The freedom of insurgents to operate inside Pakistan is also a threat to Pakistan. So this is a problem, it is for both of us and we both need to solve it."
There has been a significant rise in insurgent attacks in Afghanistan and June is being described as the deadliest month for international troops since the U.S-led coalition forces began operations against the Taliban and the al-Qaida network in the country in 2001. Thirteen British soldiers are among at least 40 foreign troops killed in Afghanistan this month.
Pakistan, an important U.S ally in the war against terrorism, is coming under increasing pressure to stop Taliban insurgents from using border sanctuaries. But Pakistani leaders reject criticism their attempts to end violence and militancy through peace talks with extremist groups are causing insecurity in Afghanistan.
Speaking to reporters in the eastern city of Lahore, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said holding peace talks with those denouncing violence remains his government's top priority. But he said that military force is also being used in areas where militants are challenging government authority.
Mr. Gilani says that in some places the option of dialogue is vanishing and no government can afford a parallel government.
Prime Minister Gilani made the remarks as his security forces attacked militant bases in the northwestern Khyber tribal region. The volatile border area serves as a main land route for bilateral trade and sending supplies to U.S-led foreign troops in Afghanistan.
Pakistani authorities told reporters a day after launching the anti-militant offensive they pushed back militants and have eliminated their bases.
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