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  • Afghan-Pakistani Border Patrol???....

    Afghan official suggests border task force

    By William H. McMichael - Staff writer
    Posted : Tuesday Sep 23, 2008 914 EDT

    Afghanistan’s defense minister Monday proposed the creation of a joint U.S.-Afghan-Pakistani military task force that would share intelligence and strike terrorist insurgents on both sides of the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    Abdul Rahim Wardak told reporters at the Pentagon that Afghanistan made a formal proposal for the joint force to the Pakistanis at the Aug. 19 Tripartite Commission meeting in Kabul. “They say they are looking at it,” Wardak said, adding that Afghanistan “is willing to cooperate fully.”
    The war in Afghanistan “needs the combined effort of the community of nations — and the terrorist does not recognize any boundaries,” said Wardak, after completing a tour of the newly dedicated Pentagon Memorial to 9/11 victims.
    “To fight them, I think we have to ... come up with some arrangement, together with our neighbor in Pakistan, that we should have a combined joint task force of coalition, Afghan, Pakistanis, to be able to operate on both sides of the border — regardless of which side.”
    Such efforts to find the “real hideouts of the terrorists” would be based on shared intelligence, Wardak said.
    He said he had personally broached the concept with the U.S. a “long” time ago.
    Wardak’s announcement would seem to indicate at least some agreement within the Afghani government that Pakistani troops, as part of such a joint task force, could operate on the Afghanistan side of the border.
    But one defense official said the feeling is likely not widely shared in Pakistan, whose Federally Administered Tribal Area, which makes up much of Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, is believed by U.S. officials to harbor a wide range of insurgent groups that can launch attacks from what amounts to a safe haven. The groups include members of the Taliban and al-Qaida’s senior leadership, U.S. officials say.
    “The problem is the Pakistanis,” said the official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the situation. “They’re very protective of their sovereignty.”
    Pakistan, a U.S. ally, has voiced strong disapproval of what it says are U.S. cross-border strikes — not acknowledged by U.S. officials — against those alleged insurgent hideouts in the FATA. A Pakistani army spokesman said Sept. 16 that its troops had been given orders to fire upon U.S. forces crossing the border. The announcement drew a quick visit with senior Pakistani military leaders from Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in an effort to ease tensions.
    According to the Associated Press, Pakistani troops and tribesmen fired at two U.S. helicopters that crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan late Sunday. The AP said the fire was not returned and that the helicopters re-entered Afghani airspace.
    U.S. officials have long suspected that elements of Pakistani forces are cooperating with insurgent groups. Pakistan counters that it has lost scores of troops in fighting insurgents in the FATA.
    Violence is on the rise in Afghanistan; the U.S. has lost more troops there this year, 127, than in all of 2007. Some 102 other coalition troops have been killed there this year.
    Wardak said it would be impossible to provide an estimate of how many insurgents reside in the FATA. He estimated that 10,000-15,000 insurgents — those who are “dedicated totally” as opposed to cash-strapped part-timers who fight for the money — are living and operating within Afghanistan.
    But increasingly, he said, these insurgents are coming from outside Afghanistan. “This year, I think we have faced many more foreign fighters than the local ones,” Wardak said. “In some cases, they had to use interpreters to talk to the locals.”
    To date, the only joint efforts to stop insurgent incursions are modest. As many as eight “border coordination centers” manned by coalition, Afghani and Pakistani troops are proposed, but only one is operational and one other under construction. The centers coordinate intelligence-sharing, identify threats on either side of the border and deconflict opposing forces in an effort to forestall cross-border insurgent attacks.
    In addition, the U.S. provides money for the training of the paramilitary Frontier Corps, led by Pakistani officers, but that force is said to be minimally effective and U.S. lawmakers have questioned whether it is fighting terrorists or supporting them.
    U.S. officials wouldn’t comment on Wardak’s specific concept, although in a Jan. 24 news conference, Defense Secretary Robert Gates raised the possibility of conducting joint operations with the Pakistanis “should they desire to do so,” conference, saying that “we have an ongoing dialogue” with Pakistan on that issue.
    Gates also told the AP Sept. 18 that the Bush administration is reviewing its Afghanistan war strategy, comparing it to the change made in Iraq in early 2007 when the administration launched a surge of nearly 30,000 troops in an effort to quell insurgent violence. The senior U.S. general in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, has said the current strategy is working but that he needs more troops.
    Mullen, who told the House Armed Services Committee on Sept. 10, “I am not convinced we’re winning in Afghanistan, but I am convinced we can,” has also called for a new approach to overcoming the war-torn nation’s many-faceted problems, which include a resurgent Taliban, illegal drug production and widespread poverty and illiteracy.
    But Mullen also called for working more closely with the Pakistani government “to eliminate the safe havens from which they operate.” Mullen’s spokesman said the Wardak proposal could be part of such a cooperative approach.
    “Broadly speaking, Adm. Mullen is supportive of trying to find new ways to get at the use of extremists in the border region through a coordinated, integrated fashion,” said Navy Capt. John Kirby, a spokesman for Mullen.
    Kirby said he wasn’t aware of Wardak’s proposal and couldn’t address it, but added, “The sort of cooperation and coordination that that proposal could lead to is definitely the kind of effort that the chairman is speaking to when he talks about trying to work better across the Afghan-Pakistan border.
    Mullen “would probably welcome the opportunity to further explore” the idea, Kirby said.
    Wardak said he agreed with Mullen’s assessment of progress in the war. “I am confident that we will win,” Wardak said.
    Related reading:

    US officer: Pakistani forces aided Taliban

    ...And shephards we shall be. For thee my lord, for thee. Power hath descended forth from thy hand. That our feet may swiftly carry out thy command. So we shall flow a river forth to thee. And teeming with souls shall it ever be. E Nomini Patri, E Fili, E Spiritu Sancti.

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