By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
July 20, 2007 - The U.S. is working with Pakistan to find a way to counter al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists who operate inside Pakistan, along the Afghan border, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace said here today. "We are trying to find a way to get at the terrorists inside Pakistan while paying respect to the special nature of the tribes that are there and the sovereignty of the Pakistan government," he said. "We are working it, we have not yet found the ideal solution to that. We are not going to give up."
Pace spoke at a town hall meeting for spouses of deployed soldiers at Conn Barracks. Two units from the post – the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team and the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team – are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.
A 173rd spouse asked the chairman why the U.S. military has not helped Pakistan clear out terrorists within its borders.
"We have offered to help, but this gets to though the very real problem in the war on terrorism: how do we fight our enemies inside of countries with which we are not at war," Pace said. "How do we pay proper respect to the sovereignty of another nation, while you try to protect your own sovereignty and freedom."
Pakistan has been very helpful in the war on terror, the chairman said. The United States could not have launched Operation Enduring Freedom without Pakistani assistance. Pakistan has lost about 1,000 soldiers in combat against al Qaeda and other extremists trying to use the Tribal Areas along the Pakistani-Afghan border as a safe haven.
Pace said the United States has been working since 2001 with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to better prosecute the war on extremists. The U.S. is offering to help with as much intelligence and other support as Pakistani officials are "comfortable working with," he said.
"We have been working for years with him to find ways to cooperate through intelligence and military support, if needed," he said. "It's just part of the dialogue."
There is a Tripartate group – Afghanistan, Pakistan and U.S./NATO that meets regularly to discuss cross-border issues.
That being said, the United States is not going to put ground troops into Pakistan or cross any borders, Pace said. "We're looking to have a cooperative agreement with the leaders of that country in a way that supports him as he fights terrorists in his own country," Pace said.
The Pashtu tribal areas on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan have never subjected themselves to the complete authority of the central government in Pakistan.
Taliban fighters sought refuge in the Tribal Areas, and the Pakistani president tried to negotiate an agreement with tribal leaders that would keep them semi-autonomous and have the tribes kick out the Taliban and al Qaeda.
"They tried that for a couple of months, and it did not work," Pace said. "As a result, more Pakistani troops have been deployed to the border."